Conleys pitch clock violation results in a tie between Braves.webp

Conley’s pitch clock violation results in a tie between Braves and Red Sox – The Associated Press – en Español

Cal Conley of the Atlanta Braves thought he won Saturday’s game with a two-out walk-off walk with a full count and lots of bases. He took a few steps toward first base, bat still in hand, when umpire John Libka jumped out from behind the plate and called out the three-shot.

Game over. Conley, apparently thinking he’d automatically been given the four ball, couldn’t believe it. He pointed to himself and said, “Me?” His teammates couldn’t believe it either. Fans booed.

Welcome to 2023, where the new baseball rules designed to improve the pace of the game will quickly apply to everyone, especially the players.

The most dramatic moment of the new pitch clock era came on the first full day of the Spring Games and in as dramatic a scenario as possible. Conley, who was taking on the Boston Red Sox’s Robert Kwiatkowski, was not in the pits and was not paying attention to the pitcher when the clock wound up under eight seconds.

The penalty is an automatic hit that resulted in the game ending in a 6-6 draw in North Port, Fla. Kwiatkowski got the strikeout after only throwing two real strikes.

It was a far more dramatic moment when San Diego Padres hitter Manny Machado became the first player to suffer a pitch clock injury on Friday when he was called on an automatic hit in the bottom of the first inning against Seattle because he not set was in the box in time.

The pitch clock is one of the new rules designed to speed up the pace of the game. Players have 30 seconds to continue play between batters. Between pitches, pitchers have 15 seconds without an on and 20 seconds if there is a baserunner. The pitcher must begin his delivery before the clock runs out. After a pitch, the clock restarts if the pitcher recovers the ball, the catcher and batter are in the circle around home plate, and play is otherwise allowed to resume.

MORE CHARACTER BRACKETS?

Could pitch clock lead to more sign-stealing on the field, in turn forcing managers to cut out the third-base coach as a middleman for sign-passing?

Veteran managers Dusty Baker and Buck Showalter believe so.

It’s an interesting point from Baker considering he took over as Houston’s manager in 2020 after AJ Hinch was fired following the startling revelation that the Astros illegally stole signs in 2017 when they won the World Series and again in 2018.

“I worry about it because you always know people steal signs,” Baker said Saturday as his World Series champion Astros defeated Showalter’s New York Mets 4-2 in West Palm Beach, Fla . “And then there is the sensitive area. OK, are you cheating? Is that part of the game, stealing signs? If I know you’re going to hit and run, I should.”

Baker said the dugout has less time to give signals to the third base coach, who in turn has to pass signals to batsmen and runners, and therefore less time to use decoys, making the signals easier to decipher.

Baker thinks the pitch clock puts even more pressure on the third base coach to be quick — and somewhat deceptive. On the other hand, the pitch clock also limits the time the defense has to react even if they know a hit-and-run or a bunt is coming.

Baker said the toughest job on the field is being a third-base coach. “Everyone in the ballpark has eyes on him. Everyone tries to decipher his character string. There are guys in the stands, guys are on videos now. I mean, when you know what the opposition is going to do, that makes it even more difficult. Yes, that worries me.”

Showalter shares Baker’s concerns to the point that he is considering eliminating the middle man and having all signs come straight from the dugout, a practice common among the amateur ranks.

“There’s so many things that because we’re afraid to copy college or high school, because, ‘Oh, they’re amateurs and we’re pros,'” Showalter said. “There are things they have done better. They don’t go through the third base car. Why do we transfer stuff to a third base coach and then transfer it to the player? It’s just another relay.”

A homer and an injury

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Jo Adell used his only timeout during his at-bat in the second inning and then launched a long two-run homer in the next pitch to leave Seattle lefthand Marco Gonzales. In his final at-bat, he drew an injury for the second bat by plate referee Mike Muchlinski and eventually knocked out.

“I’ve been trying to figure out how many timeouts occur before a strike, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t call another one,” Adell said. “In the following at-bat, I ran in seven seconds and got a strike that was called. I think it’s ok, we’ll all get into the rhythm, there will be a few breaches here and there.

HOME PLATE VOLTAGE

St. Louis Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said umpire CB Bucknor had “zero class” for refusing to shake his hand during the card exchange on the starting plate before a game against the Washington Nationals. Marmol, who shook hands with the other three umps, saw Bucknor for the first time since he was ejected in a contentious argument in Arizona on Aug. 21.

“I went into this game pretty sure what I think about him as a referee,” Marmol said. “They weren’t very good and it shows his lack of class as a man. I chose my words with care. I just don’t think he’s good at his job and it just showed his lack of class as a man.”

Marmol was ejected in the final game of a series last year after protesting a strike call by Bucknor against Nolan Arenado, with each vocally questioning the other’s “time in the league”.

Bucknor was unavailable after Saturday’s game and did not answer a reporter’s call.

BRYANT ON THE ROAD

Colorado Rockies’ Kris Bryant’s first spring training game this season included more racing than expected. The 31-year-old is trying to recover after missing a large part of the 2022 season with various injuries including to his right foot. He hit .306 with five home runs in 42 games.

Bryant hit first base by a fielder’s choice in the first inning against the Diamondbacks. He then met Ryan McMahon’s double to the wall from first base.

“I felt good running, I just felt slow,” Bryant said, laughing. “But I think this is my first time doing it in spring training, it’s a good test for me.”

SONG LITTS

Phillies right-hander Noah Song threw a mound on his third day of practice after joining the US Navy team and said the session had been “good”. The 25-year-old was a flight officer trained on a P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft before being allowed to transfer from active duty to reserve.

Song impressed in his only pro season, making seven starts for Boston’s Class A Lowell daughter in 2019, winning 19 of 17 innings with a 1.06 ERA. With a fastball in the top 90s mph, he went 11-1 with a 1.44 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 94 innings during his senior year in the Navy.

The Phillies selected Song from the Phillies in the December draft for unprotected minor league players.

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AP sportswriter David Brandt and AP freelance writers Chuck King, Rick Hummel, Jack Thompson and Mark Didtler contributed to this report.

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