Zac Gallen experiments with pitch clock, has ‘grey area moment’

Mar 7, 2023, 5:54 PM
Arizona Diamondbacks P Zac Gallen (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)...
Arizona Diamondbacks P Zac Gallen (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

SCOTTSDALE — It was officially Gallentines Day at Salt River Fields on Tuesday with Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Zac Gallen taking the mound for the first time this spring against the Oakland Athletics.

And while the outing was far from anything to write home about, with Gallen giving up four earned runs on four hits and four walks in two innings of work (62 pitches) across four frames, it did allow Arizona’s No. 1 pitching option the opportunity to take in some of the new rule changes MLB implemented this offseason.

“Everything’s about trying to make the hitters uncomfortable, so I was experimenting with setting somewhat early — 12 seconds — and holding the ball until three or four trying to see if I could make the hitters uncomfortable at the same time,” Gallen said after the 9-3 loss. “I think it was a little bit of an adjustment for me, too. Inherently, I was thinking, ‘Now I have to be faster in my delivery’ as opposed to as soon as I feel like it, go up and start.

“It’s all kind of an adjustment period. Having a new uniform and different uniform out there, it changes everything. I was definitely experimenting with looks to second base, holding the ball and all those things.”

As for Gallen’s lone strikeout of the afternoon? It wasn’t without some quick-pitch controversy.

After back-to-back hits to start the opening frame, Gallen worked Ryan Noda to a 2-2 count before ringing him up behind a 94 mph four-seam fastball.

Noda, however, was still getting set in the box when Gallen hurled the fastball around the 15-16-second mark in the pitch clock.

“I didn’t realize that he called time,” Gallen said. “I was not paying attention and he stepped out, got back in the box and I’m not changing the pitch, so I just came set. I thought he looked at me for a good second and a half, two seconds. I guess three seconds is the time. I don’t know.

“I was just ready to go,” the pitcher added. “I figured he’s going to get into the box and of course it’s an advantage to me to be ready and have the pitch. … I have the ball, I’m ready to go, the clock’s going. The longer I let it go, the more comfortable he gets. My job out there is to make you uncomfortable.”

Gallen’s grey area on Tuesday isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last we hear about quick pitches this spring training and regular season.

With the implementation of the pitch clock, pitchers — most notably the New York Mets’ Max Scherzer last week — have experimented with the timing of their pitches, setting up early at times to potentially keep an opposing batter on his toes.

That led to MLB sending out a memo this past Saturday stating that umpires will call a quick pitch if it is delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the box. The rule adds another level of safety for a batter and has been in play before the inception of the pitch clock.

“I don’t think he manipulated the situation,” manager Torey Lovullo said postgame. “I think the umpire, if he felt like he was, he probably would have called timeout or told him it was an illegal pitch and it wouldn’t have been a strike. I think Zac was just ready to go, he came to a quick set, the hitter was alert and had his head up and I think those are the rules.

“I know there’s some grey area there. I think we’re still trying to figure that out. I think it gets a little dangerous when the pitcher’s ready to fire the baseball and the hitter’s just picking his head up. Based on the timing I saw — and I could be wrong — I felt like the hitter had a second to gather himself and get ready. I thought it was a good strategy by Zac.”

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Zac Gallen experiments with pitch clock, has ‘grey area moment’