The pace of play initiative that has been used this season throughout baseball finally took full effect on Friday night.
The new rules include penalties for violators of the pitch clock at the minor league level, resulting in balls and strikes. Prior to Friday, the clock was used, but there were no penalties applied as the players were allowed an adjustment period.
During this month, there were a handful of times that would have resulted in a penalty, but only a few noticeable ones that stood out. Since it has been enforced at Triple-A, in the first two days at Indianapolis, there have been no violators of the rule.
The sentiment of the Indianapolis pitchers are that the clock will not be an issue, there was a time or two last week that Wilfredo Boscan either came close or would have violated the rule. Boscan starts for Indianapolis on Tuesday. Bobby LaFromboise also voiced some concern with the series of signs that would need to be flashed by the catcher with a runner at second base.
The clock allowed 20 seconds in between pitches for the pitcher to come to the stretch. The clock is not used following plays that result in a dead ball. It is considered a violation if the hitter is not in the box within five second on the clock or if the pitcher has not begun his motion by the clock hitting zero with no runners on base.
The clock allowed 2:25 in between innings and pitchers are no longer guaranteed eight warm up pitches between innings, based on the time on the clock. However, the clock is not used in between innings if the pitcher or the catcher are the last outs.
Similar to the major league rule, the hitter must keep at least one foot in the box throughout the at-bat, unless a few exceptions occur. Those include if the batter is forced out of the box by a pitch, he is granted time out, there is a defensive play on the runner, a wild pitch, or the catcher leaves the box for signs.
The 20-second timer starts when the pitcher has the ball in the dirt circle of the mound or when the batter gets in the dirt circle around the plate. The timer stops when the pitcher comes set, makes a pickoff attempt, the pitcher steps off the rubber, or the hitter is granted time out.
The rule reads that the batter must make a reasonable effort to enter the box with 20 seconds remaining and should not delay to get an advantage. It is an automatic strike if the hitter is not in the box with five or less seconds left.
The pitcher is expected to begin the motion to deliver the pitch as soon as the batter enters the box and is alert to the pitcher. An automatic ball is called if the clock hits zero prior to this.
The time of the Indianapolis games have been down this season, rarely ever playing a three-hour plus game. However, it is difficult to see if that is due to some offensive shortcomings or the pace of play initiative. It does have the feel that there is less downtime though.
While there will be players that are in violation of the rule, and it will result in those penalties, there will be some roadblocks before getting this to the Major League level. The rules have more of a feel of training to minor league players before they get to the next level. However, only time will tell.