UPDATE: Carlos Zambrano hit in the face by line drive in Venezuelan Winter League

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UPDATE: Big Z’s next start might be put on hold, at least for precautionary reasons. Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago reports that in addition to receiving 10 stitches as a result of the comebacker, Zambrano also suffered soft tissue damage. He is scheduled to undergo more tests in the coming days.

10:45 AM: According to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, Carlos Zambrano was hit in the face with a line drive during a start last night with Los Caribes de Anzoátegui in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Zambrano was removed from the game and received stitches at a local hospital, but expects to make his next scheduled start.

Big Z was having his best outing of the winter before being hit by the comebacker, allowing one unearned run on two hits over five innings while striking out four and walking a pair. He has a 3.29 ERA and 12/6 K/BB ratio in 13 2/3 innings over his first three winter league outings.

Zambrano met with new Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein in Chicago last week and was told that he will have to “earn his way back” to staying with the team. The 30-year-old right-hander posted a disappointing 4.82 ERA this season before being placed on the restricted list in mid-August and is owed $18 million in 2012.

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.