Minor leagues to use clock to speed up pitchers
NEW YORK (AP) — Pitchers will have to beat the clock at Triple-A and Double-A this season.
In an effort to speed games, Minor League Baseball’s governing body said Tuesday a ball will be called in the count starting May 1 when a pitcher fails to start his windup or reach the set position within 20 seconds after having possession of the ball on the mound.
The clock will be reset when with runners on base a pitcher feints a pickoff or steps off the rubber, or after any action that allows a hitter to leave the batter’s box. Depending on the situation, the hitter must be in the batter’s box or within the dirt circle surrounding the plate when the countdown begins.
“It definitely is a little weird, especially for guys who take more time,” said New York Mets left-hander Jack Leathersich, who split last season between Double-A and Triple-A. “Everybody pitches differently. There’s no right way to do it. I think it’s good for the game to speed it up a little bit.”
The speed-up rules are more radical than those instituted in the major leagues for 2015, where union approval was needed. Minor league violators in April will be subject to warnings only, the same as in the major leagues.
Both the major leagues and minors will have clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks: 2 minutes, 25 seconds for most games and 2:45 for big league games on national television.
In the high minors, a ball would be called if a pitcher doesn’t start his windup or come to a set during the last 20 seconds.
Clocks are being installed at 60 ballparks at the minors’ top two levels, paid for by Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the interactive branch of MLB. Each stadium will have two clocks behind home plate and one in the outfield.
The major leagues also plan to enforce the rule used in the minors that requires a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box in many instances. Penalties in the major leagues are limited to warnings and fines.
In the high minors this year, a hitter must be in the batter’s box and “alert to the pitch” with five or more seconds left on the 20-second clock.
A first infraction during a game would result in a warning and a subsequent violation in a strike being called against the batter.