There’s a lot Marlins ace Sandy Alcántara likes about baseball’s new rules, like limits on infielder movement.
“Last year I used to get angry many times because they moved the position player and the ball went right through there,” said the Dominican, winner of the National League Cy Young Trophy.
One of the main ways baseball is trying to become more dynamic is the adoption of the pitch clock. Pitchers now have 15 seconds to throw their next pitch if there are no runners on the bases — 20 seconds when there are.
And between each turn, it can take at most 30 seconds for the action to resume.
It will take time to adjust to the clock, said Alcántara, who however is not very concerned about it. He stated that he usually works quite fast.
But working with the new clock in the preseason has drained him of more energy than he bargained for.
“Especially when it’s hot like today,” Alcántara said, after pitching two innings against the New York Mets in Jupiter, Florida, where temperatures approached 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius). “I mean: I tried to take my time because I was getting tired doing pitch after pitch.”
This is just an early adjustment that many pitchers have had to deal with. Most like the faster pace of the games, which have been reduced from 3 hours and a minute last preseason to 2:39 this time.
The Mets beat the Marlins on Wednesday in 2:37 hours.
But with less time between innings and pitches, some players are concerned about rushing too fast in situations that didn’t require it before.
“It’s kind of hard to catch your breath after covering third base, when you know you have 25 or 30 seconds to get back on the mound,” said Miami’s Peruvian-Venezuelan left-hander Jesus Luzardo.
After a week of preseason, he has called an average of 1.63 pitch clock violations per game.
And the rule is becoming part of baseball today. An umpire points to his wrist, to indicate that a pitcher has taken too long.
Mets ace Max Scherzer is testing the limits of what’s allowed. He balked after rushing too fast to make his throw.
The Dominican Wandy Peralta, relief pitcher for the New York Yankees, achieved a three-pitch strikeout in just 20 seconds.
Skip Schumaker, manager of the Marlins, likened the new pace to working out with weights in the gym.
“You lift more weight when you take a little rest,” he explained. “If you’re trying to max out, you wait a couple of minutes before your next rep. If you’re not conditioned, the next rep isn’t as good as the first. That also happens with pitches. How accurate are you going to be if you don’t have the conditioning?”
As for other instances when pitchers can be rushed, Schumaker mentioned situations where relievers come in from the bullpen.
“Colorado worries me,” he said. “There’s a high altitude, and the bullpen is between right and center field. When you run from there, you get tired. I wonder what will happen.”
Miami reliever Matt Barnes was curious if the short time between innings will tempt pitchers to throw fewer warm-up pitches.
“Suppose you have a long drive to make in Chicago. It’s April 15th and it’s 30 degrees (Fahrenheit or minus 1 Celsius)… are you going to say you have one more warm-up pitch or are you going to throw a pitch and you only have four pitches and risk injury “, asked.
Arizona left-hander Joe Mantiply was called on an automatic ball in a game against the Cubs because he didn’t finish his warmup fast enough after coming on in relief.
“We try to train for this,” Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. Everything we’re going to do off the mound is going to require a watch. So in the bullpens, batting practice and obviously games, we’re going to have to make sure that guys get used to throwing at the pace that they’re supposed to throw at.”
Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks warned that pitchers will feel pressured in certain situations.
“Last year, when I ran out of the bullpen, which is a long way away, and made my warm-up pitches, I was out of breath, and that was without the pitch clock.”
Known for his powerful fastball, Hicks said he has devised ways to defuse the situation a bit.
An alternative would be to step off the mound, taking advantage of one of the opportunities available to him, to take a breather. Under the new rules, pitchers can stop making contact with the plate, to call timeout or to throw a throw to the pads.
They can do this up to two times per turn.