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Lovullo, D-backs will adjust to MLB’s pace of play initiatives

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo answers a question during a news conference before Game 3 of baseball's National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – As the Arizona Diamondbacks took the field for their first full-squad workout on Monday, Major League Baseball announced a handful of rule changes designed to improve the pace of play.

Speeding up the game, or perhaps better put, reducing the amount of downtime, has been a subject of much debate over the past several years.

“We’re going to follow the rules,” manager Torey Lovullo said from Salt River Fields, where the rain held off during the two-hour workout. “We’re going to do what we can to help out and believe in what this message is that the Commissioner’s office is trying to send.”

Highlighting the rule changes are the number of mound visits permitted in a game and the time required for inning breaks and pitching changes.

A lot of what baseball announced falls directly on the manager’s shoulders.

“I don’t like to make quick, hasty, reactive decisions so the pace of play might not fit into my style,” Lovullo said. “So if I have to make the adjustments, I will because I believe in what the Commissioner’s office is trying to do.”

Beginning this season, teams will be limited to six mound visits — not including when a pitching change is made — per nine innings. In extra-inning games, teams will receive one additional visit per inning.

Mound visits are defined as “a manager or coach trip to the mound to meet with the pitcher” and “a player leaving his position to confer with the pitcher, including a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player…regardless of where the visit occurs or the length of the visit,” according to the statement from Major League Baseball.

“We’ll make it work. We know that it’ll be a challenge,” Lovullo said. “We do a lot of mound visits for reasons other than it being a mound visit for the pitcher. We set up a lot of our plays and a lot of our defense with mound visits. We’ll just have to figure out different ways to get around it and create more of a hand-signal situation to get our points across.”

Absent from the new rules was a pitch clock, something strongly opposed by the Major League Baseball Players Association.

“You want to try to keep the quality of play up, so I think that would be the concern if you try to speed it up too much or do some things that could hurt the quality of the game, fans aren’t going to show up,” said first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who is on the union’s executive board. “But, overall, if we can get out of there quicker and everyone gets to get home with their family, I think everyone would like that. But try to do it within reason and taking into consideration keeping up the highest quality of baseball that’s possible.”


— Prior to the first full-squad workout, Lovullo addressed the team. He said he made it “perfectly clear” that 2017 and all that was accomplished “is in our rearview mirror right now”.

Underdogs a year ago, the D-backs surprised many in Lovullo’s first season as manager by reaching the playoffs and advancing to the National League Division series.

“We now have expectations placed upon us. We need to embrace those expectations and understand that we’re somebody that is not going to sneak up on another team as we did possibly in the first month-and-a-half of last season,” Lovullo said.

— Asked about center fielder A.J. Pollock’s spot in the batting order, Lovullo said he not “scripted any of that out yet” for any of his would-be starters.

“We’re going to put guys in places that they’re comfortable and they’re going to maximize our chances to score runs,” he said.

— Lovullo announced right-hander Taylor Clarke will start Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Clarke, 24, is one of the D-backs’ better pitching prospects. In 21 starts last year with Double-A Jackson, he went 9-7 with a 2.91 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 111.1 innings; numbers that earned him a late-season call-up to Triple-A.

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