Tiered spring training games aren’t uncommon because managers don’t want to drain pitchers in extra innings in February. But history was made in Saturday’s Grapefruit League tie between the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves.
It’s every player’s dream (maybe not in spring training, but you get it): bases loaded, two outs, complete count, tie. However, the Braves’ Cal Conley struck out without even seeing a pitch on a 3-2 count to end the game.
He was not placed in the batter’s box in time.
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New MLB rules give pitchers 20 seconds to throw a pitch with runners on. But hitters have only eight seconds, whether there are baserunners or not, to get ready. If the pitchers do not comply, a ball is called. If batters don’t, it’s a strike. With Conley not ready, strike three was called, and the game ended in a draw after nine innings.
While adjusting the pace of play is necessary for the sport, doing so at the expense of the literal endgame might just be overkill.
Manny Machado became the first victim of shot clock rules Friday. He didn’t get there on time and immediately fell into an 0-1 hole.
«I’m going to have to make a big adjustment. I could be down 0-1 a lot this year.» Machado said later. «It’s super fast. There will definitely be an adjustment.»
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The changes come after test drives in the minor leagues, where MLB says games have been shortened by an average of 26 minutes.
Two games between MLB teams were played on Friday. The game between the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners lasted two hours and 29 minutes, while the game between the Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals lasted two hours and 33 minutes.
That’s a sample size considering it’s early in spring training. And a lot of minor leaguers, who are well used to the faster pace, are playing. So maybe not the best indicator. But if baseball wants a faster pace in games, it’s off to a good start, and the minor leagues’ sample size is surely pretty big.
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Last season, Major League Baseball games lasted an average of three hours and three minutes, and the average duration hasn’t been less than three hours since 2015 (2:56). You have to go back to 1978, the last time the average game took less than 2 and a half hours.