VENICE, FLORIDA — MLB’s newest rules will take some getting used to. And until the players do, fans may be in for wacky endings like the one at CoolToday Park on Saturday.
Atlanta Braves shortstop prospect Cal Conley was in the midst of every batter’s dream scenario. Bottom of the ninth. Tied ballgame. Bases loaded. Everything was set up for a highlight moment of a career still in its infancy.
But Conley took his time entering the batter’s box. As the freshly installed pitch clock ticked past 8, the home plate umpire called strike three on the flabbergasted Conley. At-bat over. Inning over. Game over.
Although regular season games won’t finish on a tie, Saturday’s Spring Training matinee was emblematic of the adjustments MLBers will have to make this year. The clock violation is just one of MLB’s latest rules designed to speed up baseball’s pace of play.
For the first time, players will be under a strict clock. Pitchers will have 15 seconds with bases empty and 20 seconds with the runners on to start their pitching motion or they will be assessed a ball.
Batters not in the box by the 8-second mark, like Conley, will be assessed a strike.
Pitchers will also be limited to two disengagements- such as a pickoff attempt or step-off, per plate appearance or they will be assessed a ball.
The shift has also been banned. No more than two infielders can stand on either side of second base or else their team will be assessed a ball.
Finally, first, second and third base have been sized up to 18 square inches from 15 in order to decrease infield collisions and generate more hits and stolen bases.
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