Tick tock, tick tock. The new MLB rules are coming fast at players; just ask Cal Conley.
The Atlanta Braves hitter looked as confused as everyone else on Saturday when the new pitch clock regulation sparked confusion during a spring training game between the Braves and the Boston Red Sox.
With the game tied at 6-6, Conley was sitting on a full count against Robert Kwiatkowski.
However, as the pitch clock hit eight seconds, umpire John Libka jumped in to award strike three with Conley not yet squared up to receive the delivery.
Confused by what had just happened, Conley appeared to jog towards first base thinking that it was Kwiatkowski who had received a time violation for taking too long to pitch his delivery.
“Me?” questioned a baffled Conley, pointing towards himself before it dawned on him that he was being penalized.
The new MLB rules state that hitters must be ready in the batter’s box with eight seconds remaining and Conley was not still going through his preparation at that point.
A league source confirmed to CNN that Libka made the correct call in the game.
With players, fans and coaching staff inside the CoolToday Park all looking confused, the game ended in a 6-6 draw in a chorus of boos.
For Braves manager Brian Snitker, the incident was a reminder that players must instantly adapt to the new rules.
“These are the kind of things that tell you why we’re starting this right now,” he told reporters.
“You never know what might happen. That instance right there shows you what could happen.”
Speeding things up
The new MLB rules are designed to speed up play, with baseball games taking an average of more than three hours to finish.
They dictate that pitchers have 15 seconds to complete a delivery with bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on bases. In addition, batters will be limited to one timeout per plate appearance, and there will also be a 30-second timer between hitters.
New regulations also mean the size of the three bases have grown from 15 inches to 18 inches in the hope of reducing injuries.
If the new rules for the 2023 season are going to usher in a new, faster era for the sport, then it looks likely that players are going to need time to adapt.
However, the changes are being welcomed by some.
“If this is going to be the pace of these games, I’m OK with it,” Padres manager Bob Melvin told reporters. “First look, so far, so good.”
Teams have the remaining of the preseason to make mistakes before more is at stake when the season starts for real on March 30. Tick tock, tick tock.