1st full day of school: Minor leaguers give Diamondbacks insights on new MLB rules
SCOTTSDALE — Monday marked the first day of spring training to feature a full Arizona Diamondbacks squad.
Pitchers and catchers reported on Feb. 15, so the rest of the D-backs still had a first-day-of-school vibe on their way in and out of the facilities at Salt River Fields.
And with the full slew of sluggers getting live batting practice in against their teammates on the mound, manager Torey Lovullo and Co. have implemented MLB’s new pitch clock rules so that both pitchers and hitters can get used to the quicker play style.
For those who may need a refresher, pitchers will now be required to begin their windup — or lift their plant leg in the stretch — within 15 seconds with the bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on. Pitchers get two “disengagements” (pickoffs or step-offs) before a balk is called. Hitters will only get one timeout per plate appearance and must be in the box and looking at the pitcher with eight seconds left.
And because these rule changes were experimented with in MiLB before being adapted into MLB, it was the minor league coaches and pitchers who were teaching the big leaguers the nuances of the pitch clock.
“We’ve just been throwing things against the wall about what will work and what won’t work. We’ve really relied on the Triple-A and Double-A coaching staffs to give us some insights. … We’re just talking about some of the new challenges that we’re going to be faced with through the eyes of the Triple-A pitchers.
“We’re just trying to educate them right now and then throw everything against the wall that we possibly can to make sure we’re ready as we can be from a pitching standpoint and then how we’re going to exploit things from a baserunning standpoint,” Lovullo added. “There’s so many new normals. I’m a little uptight about it and I’ve told the players that.”
Even the big league manager himself got some encouraging words about the rule changes from the Triple-A skipper, who knows a thing or two about utilizing team speed with first to second and second to third each being 4.5 inches shorter, while third to home is three inches closer due to the increase in base size by three inches from 15 to 18.
“Gil Velazquez said to me that, ‘You’ll get into a rhythm and it won’t be as bad as you think,'” Lovullo explained. “So I’m hoping it slows down, but I just want to make sure we’re ready. That’s the key.”
Lovullo expects there to be some growing pains in the early days of the season, especially for veteran pitchers who have made it their whole career without having to worry about how quickly they work.
“I’m feeling like maybe the first two go-arounds for everybody, the first two outings for everybody is gonna be a little bit crazy, including the umpires,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of new normals right now.
“I think you’ll see a lot of the umpires deferring to some of the Triple A umpires or the call-up umpires because they know what it’s all about, but we’ll get the hang of it. Major league umpires are fantastic and major league players can make adjustments and we will all get there.”