New MLB pitch clock appears to work, shaves 20 minutes from early games

The pitch clock is seen behind Kolten Wong #16 and Julio Rodriguez #44 of the Seattle Mariners in a spring training game against the San Diego Padres at Peoria Stadium on February 24, 2023 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

By the time Cubs outfielder Brennen Davis actually saw a pitch from Arizona’s Joe Mantiply, the count was already at a ball and a strike.

Both the hitter and pitcher were penalized at the start of Davis’ at-bat to lead off the top of the third inning of Monday’s spring training game, the latest odd twist in baseball’s speed-up rules. After Mantiply entered the game as a reliever, he took too long to throw his warmup pitches; then Davis was too slow to get ready for the pitch.

Major League Baseball approved its first pitch clock this season, and every day is a new experience for the players as they try to get used to them this spring. On Saturday, Boston's game against Atlanta ended on a walk-off automatic strike; on Sunday, Mets ace Max Scherzer struck out Washington’s Joey Meneses in just 27 seconds.

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"I like the idea of games being shorter," Marlins reliever Matt Barnes said. "In Boston, we played a nine-inning, four-and-a-half-hour game against New York on a Tuesday. That’s not fun. So I like the idea of it being quicker."

So far, it's working.

The new rules, which also limit the number of times a pitcher can throw to first base, have helped cut more than 20 minutes from spring training games through the first weekend, dropping from an average of 3 hours, 1 minute last spring to 2:39.

"It’s here, and we have to abide by the rules, and we have to learn how to do it," Barnes said. "I’ll just have to figure out my routine, adjust my routine a little bit and kind of go from there."

Astros starts returns

Houston’s star infielders Jose Altuve and Jeremy Peña made their exhibition season debuts in Monday’s 4-3 loss to the Marlins in West Palm Beach, Florida. Both were hitless in three at-bats apiece, but they turned a double play in the fourth.

Peña batted .345 in the postseason last year, and was the first rookie position player to win the World Series MVP. He also won a Gold Glove and was the AL Championship Series MVP.

Astros manager Dusty Baker said he hopes to play Altuve and Peña together as much as possible during Spring Training before the World Baseball Classic starts in March. Altuve will play for Venezuela, and Peña will play for the Dominican Republic.

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"Those guys, they have to really know each other," Baker said. "Especially now, going back to the new defenses, they really have to know the range of each guy and where they are on double plays."


—Dodgers infielder Gavin Lux went down going from second to third in Monday's game against the San Diego Padres and had to be taken off the field on a cart. He was clutching his right leg.

—Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow threw just six pitches before cutting short a live batting practice session with an abdominal muscle injury, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The paper said he will have an MRI on Tuesday.

—Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki has pulled out of the World Baseball Classic. Suzuki was set to play for Japan, but he was scratched from Chicago's exhibition lineup on Saturday because of left oblique tightness.

Making up

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol and umpire C.B. Bucknor shook hands when lineup cards were exchanged before the game, a day after Bucknor refused to.

"I was raised and brought up this organization to do exactly what I did today," Marmol said. "You go to home plate. You hand the lineup card and you shake the hands of the four umpires who are running that game."

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The bad blood dates back to a game last year when Bucknor ejected Marmol and the manager said Bucknor had "no class."

Spring training for everyone

Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, making his first spring start, was also dinged with an automatic ball for throwing a warmup pitch with less than 30 seconds left on the between-innings clock. Miles Mastrobuoni ended up grounding out to the pitcher, and after the inning Bieber and Guardians manager Terry Francona each had discussions with home plate umpire Jordan Baker.

"It was his first action as well. We were joking around, figuring it out together," said Bieber, who walked one and struck out one. "They don’t want to have to hit anybody on a violation. They’re just trying to do their best to communicate beforehand."

Old days

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said there will be no pitch clock in use when New York plays Tampa at Disney’s ESPN Wide World Sports on Tuesday because the facility isn’t equipped for it.

The Rays’ game with the Yankees will be the only one played at the complex, and the first big-league spring training game there since the Atlanta Braves moved to North Port, Florida following the 2019 exhibition season.

Tampa Bay relocated workouts to the Disney facility near Orlando after Hurricane Ian damaged the team’s spring training facility in Port Charlotte, Florida, last year. But the Rays will play the remainder of its home spring training games at Tropicana Field, the Rays regular season hone.

Easy being Greene

Reds right-hander Hunter Greene, the second pick in the 2017 amateur draft, made his first start and pitched into the second inning before exhausting his pitch count.

Greene went 5-13 with a 4.44 ERA as a rookie last year, including a September game in which he threw 47 pitches at 100 mph or more – the most in baseball. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in one start and allowed just one hit in seven innings in another.

"He experienced a lot of success. He had adversity," Cincinnati manager David Bell said, noting that Greene spent some time on the injured list. "He handled it all. You don’t want them to get hurt or have failures but it was a perfect season for his development."

Greene was also called for two pitch clock violations.

On the other hand

A day after Scherzer fanned Meneses on three pitches in the time it used to take a lot of pitchers to throw one, the Mets played a more traditional 2:59 game against the Cardinals, with St. Louis winning 12-7.

The teams combined for 19 runs – St. Louis won 12-7 -- 25 hits, 11 walks and 18 strikeouts. There were two balks, neither of them because a pitcher stepped off too many times, and three wild pitches.

Mets manager Buck Showalter made three pitching changes in the middle of an inning; Cardinals pitching coach Dusty Blake made two mound visits.

Marmol said it was more like what he was used to.

"The pace is obviously is going to be quicker. That’s for sure," he said. "But the 2:26s of the world—I’m not sure about those."

AP Sports Writers David Brandt and Alanis Thames and AP freelance wrters Jack Thompson, Mark Didtler, Gary Schatz and Rick Hummel contributed to this report.