Base­ball rolls out pitch clock

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Sports - By JIMMY GOLEN

FORT MY­ERS, Fla. — Base­ball is on the clock.

The tra­di­tion­ally time­less sport im­ple­mented a pitch clock all around ma­jor league spring train­ing for the first time Satur­day in an at­tempt to hurry up both pitch­ers and hit­ters and keep the mod­ern fan from tun­ing out the in­creas­ingly lengthy games.

Six­teen games across Florida and Ari­zona were played un­der the new rules, which were be­ing phased in with­out threat of penalty for the first few days or more. There were no no­table in­ci­dents in the af­ter­noon, when three of the six games ap­proached or sur­passed 3 hours.

“I hope it gets the tempo up,” Marlins man­ager Don Mat­tingly said after the St. Louis Car­di­nals beat Mi­ami 11-1 in 3 hours, 15 min­utes. “It sounds like at the mi­nor league level they get used to it, and that’s the way you go.”

Base­ball has long billed it­self as a time­less sport, but as aver­age game times creeped over 3 hours that has be­come less a badge of honor and more a rea­son for some young or short-at­ten­tion-span fans to turn to other forms of en­ter­tain­ment.

Since tak­ing over as com­mis­sioner, Rob Man­fred has made speed­ing up games one of his pri­mary goals. Last year, the aver­age length of a nine-in­ning game fell to 3 hours — five min­utes shorter than the pre­vi­ous sea­son, but still 36 min­utes longer than a typ­i­cal game in 1976.

After push­ing for an agree­ment with play­ers last sea­son, base­ball man­age­ment de­cided on its own to ex­per­i­ment with pitch clocks dur­ing spring train­ing this year. Own­ers have the right to im­ple­ment them for the reg­u­lar sea­son but would pre­fer to reach an agree­ment with the union.

“I don’t think there’s ne­go­ti­a­tion here. As play­ers, it just shouldn’t be in the game. Hav­ing a pitch clock, if you have ball-strike im­pli­ca­tions, that’s mess­ing with the fab­ric of the game. There’s no clock in base­ball and there’s no clock in base­ball for a rea­son,” said Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als ace Max Scherzer, a newly elected mem­ber of the Ma­jor League Base­ball Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee.

“I’m not go­ing to put my name next to this clock.”

Los An­ge­les Dodgers vet­eran Rich Hill threw seven pitches in the first in­ning and re­tired the Chicago White Sox in or­der.

“I didn’t no­tice the pitch clock,” he said. “I’m against it, but I think it’s just re­ally a fun­da­men­tal thing for me. That’s it, pe­riod. It’s there, great, maybe we can be aware of it. But if it’s go­ing to dic­tate the out­come of the game, I would hope every­body who loves the game and watches base­ball would be against it for that rea­son only.”

“If it’s out there and it’s, ‘Hey, we have to pick it up, we’re us­ing the clock to use as a warn­ing or a guide­line,’ that would be fine. But I didn’t re­ally no­tice the clock. I usu­ally pitch with pretty de­cent pace any­ways,” he said.

Dodgers man­ager Dave Roberts, who has two of the slow­est pitch­ers in the game in Joe Kelly and Pe­dro Baez, said he thinks they will fig­ure it out.

“They have to ad­just,” he said. “That’s just the way it goes. We’ll have those con­ver­sa­tions with those guys. I think with spring train­ing, it’s a good op­por­tu­nity for these guys to make an ad­just­ment.”

They’ll need to hurry. Of the six early games on Satur­day, three fin­ished at 2:30 and un­der and three were at 2:56 or more. The Bos­ton Red Sox and New York Yan­kees — a ri­valry that has re­peat­edly re­sulted in four-hour reg­u­lar sea­son games end­ing at or near mid­night — fin­ished in 3:06 in 85-de­gree heat in front of a half-empty ball­park.

Each team scored two runs and used two re­liev­ers to get through the eighth in­ning. As the Yan­kees drew two walks and sent the ty­ing run to the plate in the ninth, a boy in a Dustin Pe­droia T-shirt in the front row near the Bos­ton dugout lazily threw a ball against the pro­tec­tive net­ting.

“In spring train­ing, the game is go­ing to slow down,” Red Sox man­ager Alex Cora said.

Many play­ers around the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues said they talked about the clocks in their pregame meet­ings, but didn’t pay much at­ten­tion to them on the field.

“Now hav­ing to ac­tu­ally throw to it, I think it’s more of a distractio­n than any­thing,” Scherzer said after his out­ing. “I get that there are parts of the game that we can clean up and I think that there can be mean­ing­ful changes. I’m fun­da­men­tally against this.”

At Bos­ton’s spring train­ing ball­park in Fort My­ers, there is a clock be­hind home plate, one near third base and one in cen­ter field. It counted down the time be­tween in­nings, or when a re­lief pitcher en­tered the game, and switched to a pitch clock start­ing with the sec­ond pitch to a bat­ter.

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