Tick, tock, Manny Machado. Better watch that pitch clock.
Baseball’s new timing device made its major league debut Friday during the limited schedule of spring training openers and in case you didn’t know, San Diego Padres all-star slugger Machado, not a pitcher, was called for the first infraction.
Machado found out the hard way that the pitch clock works both ways. He wasn’t quite in the batter’s box and faced Seattle Mariners left-hander Robbie Ray with 15 seconds left in the bottom of the first inning in Peoria, Ariz. Machado, who finished second in the National League MVP race last season.
Machado was hardly fazed. The veteran third baseman singled on a 2-1 pitch and then collected another single in the second up.
Machado, who batted between fellow superstars Xander Bogaerts and Juan Soto, laughed about it afterward.
“Going into the record books, at least. That’s a good one. Not bad,” said Machado. “I might just be 0-1 if I can get two hits every game.”
If Major League Baseball was looking for immediate results from the new rules designed to improve the pace of play, including the pitch clock, it got them. The Mariners won 3-2 in two hours and 29 minutes, which is fast for any game, spring or regular season. In a near surprise, the Kansas City Royals beat the Texas Rangers 6-5 in 2:33.
Padres manager Bob Melvin said he later walked over to MLB officials Morgan Sword and Mike Hill and said: “If this is the pace of these games, I’m fine with it.”
‘So far, so good’
The game “Felt really fast at the start. Guys looking at the clock, Manny makes history with the first infraction in major league history, another feather in his cap,” quipped Melvin. “During this game we acclimated a little. So far, so well.”
- With the pitch clock, players will have 30 seconds to restart play between batters. Between pitches, pitches with nobody on have 15 seconds and 20 seconds if there is a baseman. The pitcher must start his delivery before the clock expires. After a pitch, the clock restarts when the ball is in the pitcher’s glove, the catcher and batter are in the circle around home plate, and play is otherwise ready to resume.
- Batters must be in the box and alert on the field with at least eight seconds on the clock. Batters can call time once per plate appearance, stopping the countdown.
- When a pitcher does not throw a pitch in time, the penalty is an automatic ball. When a batter isn’t ready in time, it’s an automatic strike.
“That time came quickly,” Machado said. “It’s definitely something we’ll have to get used to. It takes your routine, being up there and zoning in before the pitch. The umpire gave me a little warning – ‘Hey, you got two seconds’ – but I was late already when I came into it.”
If you get to the (batter’s) box, it’s going to be faster for guys.— Padres 3rd baseman Manny Machado on MLB’s new pitch clock rule
“You got 30 seconds and you had to be ready by eight. Forget real walk-up songs,” he said with a laugh. “It will be interesting. I always respect the referee. Those things will start to fall out of the way.”
Batters can’t leave the box between pitches, “which I don’t care about,” Machado said. “You can only keep a foot in the box and collect yourself again.”
“It’s getting to the box where it’s going to accelerate guys,” said Machado. “Even pitchers, if you’re down 2-0 how are you going to take a break and lock yourself back in without taking a penalty? It’s the same thing going up there when you’re hitting.
There is no field clock in WBC
“It’s going to be an interesting year. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Who knows where this leads?
Machado will play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, where he will not have a game clock.
“I’m going to take my time,” he said.
Padres starter Nick Martinez said the clock will make things “a little tricky. I have to find some areas where I can save some time so I can get some time when I need it.”
Martinez said the clock will affect how pitches are called.
“Today the way to relieve the pressure is to have the PitchCom with me,” he said. “Most of the time (Luis Campusano) was calling the game but if I had a pitch that kind of stood out to me, I pressured him. I wasn’t waiting for him to call it, I was like ‘I .wanting this one.’ I’ve done it a few times. There are times when I like to slow the game down, so that will be interesting.”
Melvin said pitchers and hitters will have to adjust as spring training progresses, especially those who go to the WBC and then return to MLB’s new rules.
“The only thing is, guys are going to get a little tired working at this pace,” said Melvin. “Whether it’s starters, relievers throwing a lot of pitches, there’s going to be a consistency factor in this as well.”