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Harrison not worried about new pace-of-game rules

Hurdle, Burnett weigh in on the changes announced by MLB on Friday

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Josh Harrison is confident he will be able to adapt to the new Major League Baseball pace-of-game rules without any side trips to a habit-breaking clinic.

In particular, the rule mandating that batters keep at least one foot in the box throughout at-bats, one of the pace-of-game enforcements announced Friday, has direct bearing on Pittsburgh's third baseman.

Harrison has been known for going through a specific routine between every pitch: Step out, clang the bat off both heels, take a phantom swing, step back in. It is not exactly up to "Human Rain Delay" standards, as personified by former Cleveland outfielder Mike Hargrove, but it's a consistent delay nonetheless.

That will have to stop -- except after Harrison regroups after hitting a foul ball, or getting out of the way of a wild pitch, or other "exceptional" situations occur.

Harrison was nonplussed about the restriction.

"If they change something, I'll be all ears," Harrison said prior to taking the field Friday morning, before the rules were formally announced. "Until anything happens, I'm just going to approach the game the way I always have. I'm sure if there's a new rule in place, they'll spend this Spring Training talking to us about it and also working at it, if it is going to be changed."

Harrison's perception there was spot on: Although the rules go into effect immediately, violations during Grapefruit and Cactus League games and April regular-season games will earn a player a warning, but no fines.

Following this period of adjustment, collected fines will be donated to the MLB Players Trust charitable foundation.

"Many people do things they're not even aware of," Harrison said. "It's just a habit. If they change things, I'll listen and adjust. I'm not losing any sleep over any of this. I can adapt, no worries."

Another significant part of the pace-of-game rule changes was that replay review got several major revisions. Pirates' manager Clint Hurdle declined to comment on changes that were announced while he was still on Pirate City field, conducting workouts.

"I'd rather get a full understanding of this before I get into any of it," Hurdle said.

Managers will no longer take the field, but signal from the dugout to challenge plays (except an inning-ending call, to keep the defensive team on the field). Challenges will be retained after every overturned call, not just the first (as in 2014).

Tag-up plays -- such as leaving the base too early, or re-touching a base in retreat -- were originally not reviewable, but will now be subject to replay review.

"Many people do things they're not even aware of," Harrison said. "It's just a habit. If they change things, I'll listen and adjust. I'm not losing any sleep over any of this. I can adapt, no worries."

Veteran pitcher A.J. Burnett scoffed at the timing mechanism that will be invoked to hasten play after inning-breaks and pitching changes.

"There are so many other things that can slow a game down," said Burnett. "Anyway, bet there are only a few pitchers who were a problem in this and a lot more like me. I always want to keep a game moving along."

Neil Walker, the Bucs' representative to the MLB Players Association, which had approval rights on the rules changes, noted that the union had rejected the pitch clock -- which had also received a trial run in the Arizona Fall League and will be tested this season in Double-A and Triple-A.

"It seems they're just going to try to be more efficient with some of the issues that go on during the course of the day," Walker said.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
Read More: Pittsburgh Pirates, Josh Harrison, Neil Walker