Yankees release Jacoby Ellsbury, designate Greg Bird for assignment

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The Yankees announced some stunning news on Wednesday: outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury has been released and first baseman Greg Bird was designated for assignment. In doing so, the Yankees opened up a couple of spots on the 40-man roster, which allows them to protect some younger players from the Rule 5 draft.

The news is stunning, though not surprising — one just didn’t expect Ellsbury and Bird’s tenures to end so unceremoniously. Ellsbury hasn’t played since 2017 due to injuries. He is owed $21.1 million for the 2020 season plus a $5 million buyout in 2021.

Ellsbury, 36, was a big free agent get for the Yankees ahead of the 2014 season, inking a seven-year, $153 million contract. Along with injuries, he underperformed, batting a meager .264/.330/.386 with an aggregate 9.8 WAR, according to Baseball Reference, from 2014-17.

Bird, 27, debuted with a lot of hype in 2015, mashing 11 home runs in 46 games as a 22-year-old. He, too, missed lots of time in recent years due to injuries. He ends his Yankees tenure with a .725 OPS and 0.1 WAR across 186 games spanning parts of four seasons.

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%.