The Washington Post

Against Nats, Scherzer tests pitch clock’s limits


New York Mets right-hander Max Scherzer has theorized that baseball’s new pitch clock will allow pitchers to dictate the pace of games.

In the eyes of one umpire, he raced too fast even for the pitch timer Friday.

Scherzer tested the boundaries of baseball’s novel pace-of-play rules during his second spring training start in Port St. Lucie, Fla., trying several unusual tactics to get Washington Nationals hitters off their game. At one point, he started throwing a pitch to Victor Robles the moment plate umpire Jeremy Riggs reset the clock, and Riggs called him for a balk.

“He calls time, I come set, I get the green light,” Scherzer said. “I thought that was a clean pitch. He said no. We have to figure out where the limit is.”

MLB’S pitch clock has left pitchers and hitters learning a whole new pace to the game this spring. Players have 30 seconds to resume play between batters. Between pitches, pitchers have 15 seconds to deliver the ball with nobody on and 20 seconds if there’s a base runner.

Batters must be in the box and alert to the pitcher with at least eight seconds on the clock, and they only get one timeout per plate appearance.

Scherzer experiment­ed with a few strategies Friday.

With two on and two strikes against Riley Adams in the third inning, Scherzer froze in the set position and let the pitch clock tick down to seven before Adams called a timeout.

On the next pitch, Scherzer became set as the 20-second clock started. Adams finally stepped into the box with the clock at 11 seconds, and Scherzer immediatel­y delivered, getting a swinging strike on a 96-mph fastball.

“You can tell they were expecting me to work quick today, and you can make that work to your advantage by speeding up and slowing down the game,” Scherzer said.

Not all the experiment­s worked. Not only was Scherzer called for a balk, but he also had a double play overturned when umpires ruled he had narrowly let the pitch clock run out before starting his delivery.

• BLUE JAYS: Toronto first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. left Friday’s spring training game against Tampa Bay in Dunedin, Fla., with right knee discomfort.

Guerrero walked toward the clubhouse with an athletic trainer in the second inning and was replaced defensivel­y by Rainer Nunez to start the third.

“Just checking it out, seeing how he is,” Blue Jays Manager John Schneider said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. Really just playing it safe at this point and this part of camp.”

Guerrero had an RBI single during the first inning in his lone at-bat. He went awkwardly into second base later in the inning.

• PHILLIES: Pitching prospect Andrew Painter, 19, is getting tests on his right elbow after reporting some tenderness during his spring training debut Wednesday. He gave up a run and three hits in two innings with a strikeout.

Painter has been the buzziest prospect in baseball this spring as he tries to crack the NL champions’ Opening Day rotation.

• YANKEES: New York ace Gerrit Cole gave up one hit over three scoreless innings against the Detroit Tigers in his first spring training start in Tampa.

Cole struck out four and allowed just two base runners. The right-hander’s fastball reached 99 mph during his 51-pitch outing.

It was the first time Cole took the mound with the pitch clock that is being used this season.

“I’m excited,” Cole said. “It’s going to be great. Get home quicker. It’s going to be awesome.”

• MISC.: Miami Marlins infielder Carlos Santiago was suspended for 80 games and free agent pitcher Dalton Moats for 50 games following violations of the minor league drug program.

Santiago, 21, was on the roster of Class A Jacksonvil­le after he hit .264 with five homers and 28 RBI last year for the Florida Complex League Marlins and Jacksonvil­le.

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