It’s working: Pitch clock shaves 20 minutes from early games

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Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports
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By the time Cubs outfielder Brennen Davis actually saw a pitch from Arizona’s Joe Mantiply, the count was already at a ball and a strike.

Both the hitter and pitcher were penalized at the start of Davis’ at-bat to lead off the top of the third inning of Monday’s spring training game, the latest odd twist in baseball’s speed-up rules. After Mantiply entered the game as a reliever, he took too long to throw his warmup pitches; then Davis was too slow to get ready for the pitch.

Major League Baseball approved its first pitch clock this season, and every day is a new experience for the players as they try to get used to them this spring. On Saturday, Boston’s game against Atlanta ended on a walk-off automatic strike; on Sunday, Mets ace Max Scherzer struck out Washington’s Joey Meneses in just 27 seconds.

“I like the idea of games being shorter,” Marlins reliever Matt Barnes said. “In Boston, we played a nine-inning, four-and-a-half-hour game against New York on a Tuesday. That’s not fun. So I like the idea of it being quicker.”

So far, it’s working.

The new rules, which also limit the number of times a pitcher can throw to first base, have helped cut more than 20 minutes from spring training games through the first weekend, dropping from an average of 3 hours, 1 minute last spring to 2:39.

“It’s here, and we have to abide by the rules, and we have to learn how to do it,” Barnes said. “I’ll just have to figure out my routine, adjust my routine a little bit and kind of go from there.”


Houston’s star infielders Jose Altuve and Jeremy Pena made their exhibition season debuts in Monday’s 4-3 loss to the Marlins in West Palm Beach, Florida. Both were hitless in three at-bats apiece, but they turned a double play in the fourth.

Pena batted .345 in the postseason last year, and was the first rookie position player to win the World Series MVP. He also won a Gold Glove and was the AL Championship Series MVP.

Astros manager Dusty Baker said he hopes to play Altuve and Pena together as much as possible during Spring Training before the World Baseball Classic starts in March. Altuve will play for Venezuela, and Pena will play for the Dominican Republic.

“Those guys, they have to really know each other,” Baker said. “Especially now, going back to the new defenses, they really have to know the range of each guy and where they are on double plays.”


–Dodgers infielder Gavin Lux went down going from second to third in Monday’s game against the San Diego Padres and had to be taken off the field on a cart. He was clutching his right leg.

–Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow threw just six pitches before cutting short a live batting practice session with an abdominal muscle injury, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The paper said he will have an MRI on Tuesday.


Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol and umpire C.B. Bucknor shook hands when lineup cards were exchanged before the game, a day after Bucknor refused to.

“I was raised and brought up this organization to do exactly what I did today,” Marmol said. “You go to home plate. You hand the lineup card and you shake the hands of the four umpires who are running that game.”

The bad blood dates back to a game last year when Bucknor ejected Marmol and the manager said Bucknor had “no class.”


Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, making his first spring start, was also dinged with an automatic ball for throwing a warmup pitch with less than 30 seconds left on the between-innings clock. Miles Mastrobuoni ended up grounding out to the pitcher, and after the inning Bieber and Guardians manager Terry Francona each had discussions with home plate umpire Jordan Baker.

“It was his first action as well. We were joking around, figuring it out together,” said Bieber, who walked one and struck out one. “They don’t want to have to hit anybody on a violation. They’re just trying to do their best to communicate beforehand.”


Yankees manager Aaron Boone said there will be no pitch clock in use when New York plays Tampa at Disney’s ESPN Wide World Sports on Tuesday because the facility isn’t equipped for it.

The Rays’ game with the Yankees will be the only one played at the complex, and the first big-league spring training game there since the Atlanta Braves moved to North Port, Florida following the 2019 exhibition season.

Tampa Bay relocated workouts to the Disney facility near Orlando after Hurricane Ian damaged the team’s spring training facility in Port Charlotte, Florida, last year. But the Rays will play the remainder of its home spring training games at Tropicana Field, the Rays’ regular season home.


Reds right-hander Hunter Greene, the second pick in the 2017 amateur draft, made his first start and pitched into the second inning before exhausting his pitch count.

Greene went 5-13 with a 4.44 ERA as a rookie last year, including a September game in which he threw 47 pitches at 100 mph or more – the most in baseball. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in one start and allowed just one hit in seven innings in another.

“He experienced a lot of success. He had adversity,” Cincinnati manager David Bell said, noting that Greene spent some time on the injured list. “He handled it all. You don’t want them to get hurt or have failures but it was a perfect season for his development.”

Greene was also called for two pitch clock violations.


A day after Scherzer fanned Meneses on three pitches in the time it used to take a lot of pitchers to throw one, the Mets played a more traditional 2:59 game against the Cardinals, with St. Louis winning 12-7.

The teams combined for 19 runs – St. Louis won 12-7 — 25 hits, 11 walks and 18 strikeouts. There were two balks, neither of them because a pitcher stepped off too many times, and three wild pitches.

Mets manager Buck Showalter made three pitching changes in the middle of an inning; Cardinals pitching coach Dusty Blake made two mound visits.

Marmol said it was more like what he was used to.

“The pace is obviously is going to be quicker. That’s for sure,” he said. “But the 2:26s of the world-I’m not sure about those.”

MLB free agent watch: Ohtani leads possible 2023-24 class

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CHICAGO – The number will follow Shohei Ohtani until it is over. No, not Ohtani’s home runs or strikeouts or any of his magnificent numbers from the field. Nothing like that.

It’s all about how much. As in how much will his next contract be worth.

Ohtani is among several players going into their final seasons before they are eligible for free agency. There is still time for signatures and press conferences before opening day, but history shows a new contract becomes less likely once the real games begin.

There is no real precedent for placing a value on Ohtani’s remarkable skills, especially after baseball’s epic offseason spending spree. And that doesn’t factor in the potential business opportunities that go along with the majors’ only truly global star.

Ohtani hit .273 with 34 homers and 95 RBIs last season in his fifth year with the Los Angeles Angels. The 2021 AL MVP also went 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA in 28 starts on the mound.

He prepared for this season by leading Japan to the World Baseball Classic championship, striking out fellow Angels star Mike Trout for the final out in a 3-2 victory over the United States in the final.

Ohtani, who turns 29 in July, could set multiple records with his next contract, likely in the neighborhood of a $45 million average annual value and quite possibly reaching $500 million in total.

If the Angels drop out of contention in the rough-and-tumble AL West, Ohtani likely becomes the top name on the trade market this summer. If the Angels are in the mix for the playoffs, the pressure builds on the team to get something done before possibly losing Ohtani in free agency for nothing more than a compensatory draft pick.

So yeah, definitely high stakes with Ohtani and the Angels.

Here is a closer look at five more players eligible for free agency after this season:


Nola, who turns 30 in June, went 11-13 with a 3.25 ERA in 32 starts for Philadelphia last year. He also had a career-best 235 strikeouts in 205 innings for the NL champions.

Nola was selected by the Phillies with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft. There were extension talks during spring training, but it didn’t work out.

“We are very open-minded to trying to sign him at the end of the season,” President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said. “We’re hopeful that he’ll remain a Phillie for a long time.”


Chapman hit 36 homers and drove in 91 runs for Oakland in 2019. He hasn’t been able to duplicate that production, but the three-time Gold Glover finished with 27 homers and 76 RBIs in 155 games last year in his first season with Toronto.

Chapman turns 30 on April 28. Long one of the game’s top fielding third basemen, he is represented by Scott Boras, who generally takes his clients to free agency.


Hernández was acquired in a November trade with Toronto. He hit .267 with 25 homers and 77 RBIs in his final year with the Blue Jays. He was terrific in 2021, batting .296 with 32 homers, 116 RBIs and a .870 OPS.

The change of scenery could help the 30-year-old Hernández set himself up for a big payday. He is a .357 hitter with three homers and seven RBIs in 16 games at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park.


The switch-hitting Happ is coming off perhaps his best big league season, setting career highs with a .271 batting average, 72 RBIs and 42 doubles in 158 games. He also won his first Gold Glove and made the NL All-Star team for the first time.

Chicago had struggled to re-sign its own players in recent years, but it agreed to a $35 million, three-year contract with infielder Nico Hoerner on Monday. The 28-year-old Happ, a first-round pick in the 2015 amateur draft, is on the executive subcommittee for the players’ union.


Urías, who turns 27 in August, likely will have plenty of suitors if he reaches free agency. He went 17-7 with an NL-low 2.16 ERA in 31 starts for the NL West champions in 2022, finishing third in NL Cy Young Award balloting. That’s after he went 20-3 with a 2.96 ERA in the previous season.

Urías also is a Boras client, but the Dodgers have one of the majors’ biggest payrolls. Los Angeles also could make a run at Ohtani, which could factor into its discussions with Urías’ camp.