Major League Baseball’s new clock rules are already leading to some controversial moments.
Watch Saturday’s spring training game between the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves. With the game tied 6-6, the bases loaded and the score 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Red Sox relief pitcher Robert Kwiatkowski prepared to deliver to Braves shortstop Cal Conley.
But before the right-hander could get into his stretchhome plate umpire John Liebka interrupted: Conley did not stand in time, and so an automatic strike was called, ending the inning and the game in a tie, per spring training rules.
Conley was hit with a pitch for not being set and “alert” to the pitcher in the batter’s box when the pitch clock reached 8 seconds.
Pitchers will also be affected by a myriad of new rules MLB added for this season to make the game faster. If a pitcher does not throw the ball within a certain amount of time – 15 seconds if there is no runner on base and 20 seconds if there is – batters will have an automatic ball added to their count.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the new rules are aimed at reducing playing time and encouraging more action-oriented play. The league tried the pitch clock violation in the minor leagues last season — an experiment that helped cut playing time by 25 minutes, according to ESPN.
It’s already working. According to Jeff Passan of ESPNFriday’s game between the Padres and Mariners lasted just 2 hours and 29 minutes, about 40 minutes longer than the average game last season.
Conley wasn’t the only violator of the new rules during the first few days of spring training. Padres star Manny Machado was the first player to violate the new rule Friday when he didn’t step into the box within eight seconds. Machado later said he “could be a big loser at 0-1” this year thanks to the changes.