So far, the early results of the new pitch clock have been favorable. Players—both pitchers and hitters—seem to like it. Get the ball, throw the ball. No standing around. No wasted time. Just play ball. Games are already nearly 25 minutes shorter this spring than last. More offense, too.
The pitcher has fifteen seconds from when he gets the ball to when he has to release it, otherwise it’s an automatic ball called. This is when there are no runners on. If there are runners on, the clock moves to twenty seconds.
The hitter is also under the gun. He has to be in the box and be ready to hit. But, get this. He has to be in the box, with his eyes locked on the pitcher, with at least eight seconds left.
So, the pitcher has fifteen seconds to throw the ball. The batter has seven seconds to get into the box and be ready to hit.
Friday night was the first exhibition game of season for both the Braves and Red Sox, the first game with the new pitch clock rules.
Bottom of the ninth. The Braves scored three runs to tie the game 6-6. They had bases loaded. Two outs. The count was 3-2 on the Atlanta hitter, Cal Conley.
The Red Sox pitcher received the ball. Now, he had twenty seconds to throw it. Then, the Red Sox catcher stoop up behind the plate and started directing the outfield defense. This confused Conley, thinking this didn’t count in the clock ticking.
Finally, getting his bearings, Conley stepped back into the box. A few seconds later, the home plate umpire waved his hands that there had been a pitch clock violation. Conley thought he had won the game with a walk-off walk. He starts trotting down to first, only to learn he was out. The umpire called an automatic strike for not being in the box and ready to hit with eight seconds left. At the time, the catcher was still standing.
Every rule has to be broken in. Sometimes, those breaks leave surface cracks. This is one of those times.
Had the batter gotten into the box and looked at the pitcher, the infraction would have been different. Both the Boston pitcher and catcher weren’t on the same page. The Boston catcher was still standing, directing the defense. No way would the pitcher have thrown a pitch when his catcher isn’t paying attention.
The game would have ended in a 7-6 Braves win, with the winning run being clocked in. Instead, it ended in a 6-6 tie with the batter being clocked out.
Weird stuff is coming. Get ready.
Colorado @ Texas, 2:05