Stephen Strasburg passes test, will start Saturday

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With the Nationals still alive in the hunt for a wild card berth, there will be no shutting down Stephen Strasburg just yet. He passed his throwing test Friday and will start Saturday, manager Davey Johnson said.

Strasburg hasn’t pitched since Sept. 8 because of forearm tightness. He was scratched from his scheduled start last Friday and rescheduled for Thursday, only to have that outing pushed back.

The 25-year-old Strasburg, who was shut down after 159 innings last year, appeared a month ago to be well on his way to clearing 200 innings this season, but then he was ejected from a start after one inning and had another cut short after two innings because of rain. As a result, he’s at just 170 innings now, and even if he makes his final two starts, he’ll finish in the 180-185 range, barring the unlikely postseason berth.

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%.