In his first at bat of 2023, Manny Machado was down 0-1 before he even saw a pitch.
That’s because home plate umpire Ryan Blakney ruled that the San Diego Padres slugger was not set in the batter’s box in time.
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Facing Seattle Mariners pitcher Robbie Ray, Machado did not bring his left foot inside the batter’s box in the eight seconds he’s allowed. Blakney called time, signaled to his wrist for a clock violation, and announced that the count was now 0-1.
While in the windup, pitchers will now have 15 seconds to deliver a pitch (20 seconds with a runner on base) — but batters have just eight seconds to get set. A batter who violates the clock will be charged with a strike, while pitchers who do so will be given a ball.
Machado admitted that it’s going to take some getting used to.
“I’m gonna have to make a big adjustment. I might be 0-1 down a lot this year,” he said. “It’s super fast. There’s definitely an adjustment it’s gonna be.”
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The changes come after test drives in Minor League Baseball, where MLB says games have been shortened by an average of 26 minutes.
Two games were played on Friday between MLB teams (the Boston Red Sox had a scrimmage against Northeastern University). The game between the Padres and the Mariners took two hours and 29 minutes, while the other game between the Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals took two hours and 33 minutes.
Of course, that is a minuscule sample size, and considering it is early in spring training, plenty of minor leaguers, who are well-accustomed to the faster pace, are playing. So maybe it isn’t the best indicator. But if baseball wants to get back to the pace of the old days, it’s off to a hot start, and the sample size from the minors is surely quite large.
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Last season, the average nine-inning game lasted three hours and three minutes, and the average length hasn’t been under three hours since 2015 (2:56). You have to go back to 1978 for the last time the average game took less than two and a half hours.