Arizona Diamondbacks ‘OK’ with MLB’s pace of play plan
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It’s been much discussed, and now it’s here.
Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association jointly announced Friday a series of pace of game initiatives and instant replay modifications in an attempt to speed up a nine-inning game that on average lasted 3 hours, 2 minutes last season.
The moves — including requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box in most cases and the timing of pitching changes and between-inning breaks — are effective in spring training and then continuing on into the regular season and postseason.
“I’m excited about it,” said first-year Arizona Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale, who first heard of the pace of play talk during the Winter Meetings. “I think it’ll help the game.”
The timing of the news coincided with the D-backs’ first workout for pitchers and catchers. Many players found the memo waiting for them at their lockers inside the clubhouse at Salt River Fields.
“As long as they’re not doing anything to change the rules of the game,” closer Addison Reed said.
No, just enforcing the rules that are already on the books with some subtle tweaks, at least that is the hope.
Immediately following the third out of each half-inning, the timer — installed on or near the outfield scoreboard plus a smaller one on the façade behind home plate near the press box — will count down from 2:25 for locally-televised games and 2:45 for nationally-televised games.
Pitchers must throw their last warmup pitches before 30 seconds remain, with exceptions if the pitcher or catcher is on base when the last half-inning ends.
“I always like to speed it up. It’s always fun to watch, like the (Mark) Buehrles pitch and the game just seems like it goes a lot quicker,” right-hander Trevor Cahill said, before adding, “Some guys, they take their time and they take that time to concentrate on each and every pitch, so it’s hard for those guys to change what they’re used to. It’s got to be tough.”
A time limit between innings is most likely to affect pitchers coming out of the bullpen.
“That’s fine with me,” Reed said. “I usually run out of the bullpen and throw four, five pitches and I’m ready to go. I’m not a guy that needs to be out there and throw 10, 11 pitches. I’m four, five pitches; I’m ready to go, so I don’t think it’s going to affect me at all.”
The timing rules, according to MLB, will be enforced through a warning and fine system, with discipline resulting for flagrant violators.
“When I was a player there were no rules about chewing tobacco, for example. Then when I was a manger, there were rules, in the minor leagues, not the big leagues. And eventually you saw when all these guys started coming to the big leagues, not as many guys chewed tobacco,” Hale said. “So, what’ll happen, is with all these rules — they’ve been kind of forcing them in the minor leagues, about foot-in-the-box — these guys that start coming to the major leagues, they’ll be more in tune with it.
Now with instant replay, managers no longer will have to leave their dugouts to call for replays, unless the play in question ends an inning and the defensive team must be kept on the field.
“I’m all for (that),” Reed said, “because it’s kind of a long process when they had to run out there, talk to the umpire, look in the dugout, wait for the signal and then say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It’s better to just have them in the dugout and ‘yes’ or ‘no’ right there on the spot. I think that’s going to cut out some time.”
“I think it’s better that the manager stays in the dugout and decides. It’s less time. It’s no problem,” he said. “Whatever we can do to help the game grow—I know people want the pace to be better, then we’ve got to do it.”