The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Clark: Rules changes would be smoother with player input

- By Ronald Blum

MIAMI — Union head Tony Clark claims Major League Baseball’s rules changes would have gone more smoothly during spring training if player thoughts had been incorporat­ed.

MLB implemente­d its first pitch clock, limited defensive shifts and pickoff attempts and installed larger bases as part of the biggest alteration in playing rules since the mound was lowered for the 1969 season.

“My hope despite the fact that nearly all of the things that we have seen that would otherwise be characteri­zed as challenges could have been avoided with the input that the players offered when these rules were being constructe­d,” Clark said Saturday before the United States played Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic quarterfin­als.

“My hope is that moving forward that the league continues to take the input of players to heart, such that each of the adjustment­s that we’ve seen that have been implemente­d this year are of benefit in the long run,” Clark said.

The average time of spring training games has dropped to 2 hours, 36 minutes, from 3:00 last year. The changes have had almost no impact on offense, with runs per game rising to 10.7 from 10.6 and batting average to .260 from .259.

Stolen bases have gone up to 1.8 per game from 1.1.

“Spring training is spring training,” Clark said. “I appreciate everyone focusing on spring training game times have been shortened by `X’ number of minutes. I appreciate everyone’s focus on it. But when the lights come on and these count, count for the managers, count for the organizati­ons, count for the players, we’ll see how all of these moving pieces come together.”

After the Mets’ Max Scherzer timed the pitch clock to throw a quick pitch to Washington’s Riley Adams on March 3, MLB reminded teams that a pitcher must wait until a hitter is reasonably set in the batter’s box to deliver a pitch.

Baseball’s 11-man competitio­n committee, establishe­d in the labor agreement last March, adopted the pitch clock and shift limits last September over the opposition of the four players on the panel.

Saying it was responding to player concerns, MLB set the pitch clock at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, up from 14/19 at Triple-A and 14/18 in the rest of the minors.

MLB also liberalize­d its planned limit for pickoff attempts, known as disengagem­ents. In the minors, a pitcher had two pickoff attempts per plate appearance and a third would result in a balk unless there was an out. In the majors the limit resets if a runner advances.

MLB umpires also have permission to provide additional time if warranted, such as the catcher making the final out of a half-inning. MLB altered limits on mound visits, which started in 2018, adding an allowed trip in the ninth inning if a team has exhausted its total by the end of the eighth.

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