Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Phillies first to try out pace of play clock initiative

Sandberg: It 'went unnoticed for the most part'
MLB.com

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- For the first time in Major League Baseball, when the Phillies faced the University of Tampa at Bright House Field on Sunday, the time between innings and pitching changes was timed. There was a large clock immediately to the left of the batter's eye in center field and a smaller one on the façade behind home plate.

The goal is to improve the pace of play by eliminating time between the end of the break and the resumption of play. It is one of three major initiatives MLB has announced for the 2015 season involving the tempo of games.

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- For the first time in Major League Baseball, when the Phillies faced the University of Tampa at Bright House Field on Sunday, the time between innings and pitching changes was timed. There was a large clock immediately to the left of the batter's eye in center field and a smaller one on the façade behind home plate.

The goal is to improve the pace of play by eliminating time between the end of the break and the resumption of play. It is one of three major initiatives MLB has announced for the 2015 season involving the tempo of games.

Immediately after the third out of each half-inning, the countdown began from 2:25; it will be 2:45 for nationally-televised games. With 40 seconds remaining, the next batter is announced and his walkup music begins. With 30 seconds, the pitcher throws his final warmup. At 25 seconds the batter's walkup music ends and the batter is required to be in the box and the pitcher ready to deliver with between five and 20 seconds.

At least, that's the way it's supposed to work. And, for the most part, it went pretty smoothly Sunday.

Video: Manfred addresses pace of game at Spring Training

"It kind of went unnoticed for the most part," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "I really didn't notice it that much at all. When the time was right for the hitter to walk up there, it kind of happened naturally. So I don't think there was a lot of stress about it. It just kind of flowed."

Which, of course, is the goal.

Since the actual time devoted to commercials between innings is 2:05 (2:25 for national games) the goal is to have the first pitch of the inning delivered before the clock actually runs out. And that was the case going into the bottom of the first when University of Tampa right-hander David Heintz's first pitch to Phillies leadoff hitter Odubel Herrera came with 15 seconds to spare.

Not every changeover went as flawlessly but there weren't many snags considering that details of the changes were made public Feb. 20.

Phillies starter Paul Clemens said he had no problem with the new rules.

"I've always gotten to the mound quickly," he said. "I want to get on there and go. That way the opposing team isn't able to sit there and settle in. So I've always -- after the third out is made by my offense -- I've always gotten right back out there."

Two other pace of play adjustments stipulate that batters must, under most circumstances, keep one foot in the box between pitches, and managers will no longer come onto the field to issue challenges.

Those changes had little impact in this game. Since the umpires were not a standard MLB crew -- behind home plate was Gary Glover, who works on the Bright House Field grounds crew -- Sandberg didn't remind his hitters that they aren't supposed to step out between pitches. He'll do that before Tuesday's Grapefruit League opener against the Yankees.

Also, since instant replay was not used, the tweak on how challenges will be issued wasn't a factor, either.

That, plus the fact that there were 10 pitching changes, makes it difficult to read anything into the fact that the time of game was 2:57. Still, it was the first step on the latest significant update in the way MLB games will be played.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Philadelphia Phillies