MLB pitchers adjust to the rapid pace of a new pitch clock

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — There’s a lot that Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara likes about Major League Baseball’s new rules, such as the limitation on infield shifts.

“Last year I got so mad sometimes because they move the position player and the ball was right there,” the NL Cy Young Award winner said.

A pitch clock is one way the sport is trying to address its slow moving product. The pitch clock gives pitchers 15 seconds between pitches if there is no runner on base and 20 seconds if there is a runner aboard. It takes 30 seconds for batters to resume play.

Alcantara acknowledged that the pitch clock may take some time to get used to. However, he isn’t too concerned about the adjustment as he is used to working quickly. However, he found that working with the pitch timer during spring training took more energy than he anticipated.

“Especially when it’s hot like today,” Alcantara said after pitching two innings against the New York Mets in Jupiter, Florida, where temperatures were in the upper 80s. “I mean, I was trying to take my time because I was getting tired when I throw pitch by pitch by pitch.”

That’s an early adjustment that many pitchers are grappling with. The faster pace of play has been a big hit with most players. It dropped from 3 hours and 1 minute last spring down to 2:39. In 2:37, the Mets defeated the Marlins 8-4 on Wednesday.

With less time between innings, pitches, some players are worried about rushing. They feel tired from running backwards after certain plays.

“Kind of tough to get your breath after backing up third base and you know you only have 25, 30 seconds to get back on the mound,” Miami left-hander Jesús Luzardo said.

After approximately a week of spring practice, pitch clock violations were discovered. are being called at a rate of 1.63 per game.

Already, it’s become a new sign of the times in baseball — an umpire pointing to his wrist, indicating a pitcher dawdled too long.

Mets ace Max Scherzer is excitedly trying to determine the maximum allowed speed and was called for balk by his manager after going too fast. New York Yankees relief pitcher Wandy Peralta recorded a quick 20 second three-pitch strikeout.

Skip Schumaker, Marlins manager compared the new pace to weight training.

“You lift the most weight when you have a little bit of rest,” he said. “If you’re maxing out, you’re waiting a couple of minutes before your next rep. If you’re not conditioned, that next rep isn’t as good as the first rep. That goes with pitching, too. How sharp are you going to be if you’re not conditioned?

“Going behind home plate, backing up third, sprinting to first, all that is real. How about covering first base in St. Louis in July when it’s 110 degrees and it’s the sixth inning and you’re 85 pitches in?”

Schumaker stated that pitchers can be affected in other situations, such as when they are relieved from the bullpen.

“Colorado is my concern,” he said. “It’s at altitude and it’s in right-center-field, and when you’re running in from there, you’re pretty tired. That makes me wonder how that would look.

Matt Barnes, a Miami reliever, wondered if pitchers will be more inclined to throw less warmup pitches because of the shorter interval between innings.

“Say you’ve got a long run in in Chicago. It’s April 15 and it’s 30 degrees out, and you get out there,” Barnes said. “Are they going to say you have one more (warmup pitch) or you’re going to throw a ball, and you only get four pitches, and now you’re risking injury?”

Arizona left-hander Joe Mantiply was assessed an automatic ball in a game against the Cubs because he didn’t finish his warmup pitches quickly enough after entering as a reliever.

“We’re trying to train for it,” Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch stated. “Everything that we’re doing off the mound we are doing with a clock. So, bullpens, lives (live batting practice), obviously the games, we’re going to make sure that these guys get used to pitching at the pace in which they’re going to have to pitch.”

Jordan Hicks, Cardinals reliever, stated that he could imagine pitchers becoming tired in certain situations.

“When I ran in last year from the bullpen — that’s pretty far — and I’d throw all my (warmup) pitches, I’d be out of breath without the pitch clock.”

Hicks is well-known for his blistering fastball. He said that he had thought of ways to slow things down this season.

He said that he could back away and use one his step-offs for breath control. Under the new rules, pitchers can disengage from the rubber — either to call timeout or to attempt a pickoff throw — twice per plate appearance.

“You could walk around the grass and grab the rosin. I’m sure if it gets too deliberate, where they say, ‘Oh, you’re avoiding the rules,’ then they’ll probably say something. But if you’re quick about, that’s an extra three seconds right there.”


This report was contributed by Rick Hummel and Mark Didtler, freelancers at the AP.


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