The pitch clock made its unofficial MLB debut on Friday.
The effects of having a 15-second pitch clock were felt in the first at-bat of the Seattle Mariners-San Diego Parents game, one of two Friday games that opened the spring training schedule.
Padres reliever Nick Martinez, who started Friday, threw his first four pitches in roughly 50 seconds. On average, there were 12.5 seconds between his first pitches, which is about five seconds faster than it took Martinez between pitches with no runners on base in 2022 (17.7).
It wasn’t a pitcher, however, who committed the first shot clock violation. Parent star Manny Machado he didn’t step into the batter’s box for the first pitch of his first at-bat until seven seconds remained on the pitch clock. All batters must be in the bullpen with eight seconds left on the clock, so Machado was called out for a strike and began his at-bat with an 0-1 count.
During the game, Machado explained how the situation went.
“With eight seconds, you have to look at the pitcher, commit to the pitcher,” Machado told Bally Sports San Diego. “He was looking up and he said, ‘You’ve got two seconds.’ You have two seconds. As soon as I looked up, bang, I went 0-1 straight away.”
Machado said he wasn’t ready for the new rule change right away.
“He might have to make a big adjustment,” Machado said. “I might go down really, really down 0-1 this year. It was really quick. There’s definitely an adjustment period. I’m going down in the history books.”
Machado mentioned earlier in the week that the new pitch clock would affect slower hitters like himself and Phillies star Bryce Harper.
“We’re not really who we are,” Machado told Pedro Moura of FOX Sports. “It’s more of a mindset thing. You’re trying to get locked into the game. It’s a long season, so you want to be locked into that pitcher as much as you can. We’re all going to have to make adjustments in general. as players, so it’s definitely going to be a of the most difficult for me, for sure, I think for everyone.”
The violation didn’t end up affecting Machado too much Friday. He went 2-for-2 in his only plate appearances, hitting a pair of singles.
Machado and other slow hitters (and pitchers) will have a little more room when runners are on base. Pitchers will have 20 seconds between pitches to throw the ball while batters still have until eight seconds left to return to the infield. Batters will only have one timeout per at-bat.
Choice attempts are also being legislated, as a pitcher can only come off the rubber (by going down or pitching) twice per plate appearance without penalty. Other new rules and changes that debuted Friday included larger bases and turn bans.
Each mod is being implemented to promote action and speed up gameplay. The pitch clock was originally introduced to the minor leagues in 2022 and immediately improved the pace of play, with games taking 25 minutes less to complete compared to 2021.
The average length of an MLB game in 2022 was three hours and three minutes. Friday’s two spring training games were much faster. The Mariners-Padres game took two hours and 29 minutes to complete, while the Rangers-Royals game took two hours and 33 minutes.
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