Home News MLB’s new pitch timers forcing Yankees’ pitchers to adjust

MLB’s new pitch timers forcing Yankees’ pitchers to adjust

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TAMPA — Ahead of the first official workout of the spring for pitchers and catchers on Thursday, the Yankees held a team meeting inside the clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

The main topic? Rules, and more specifically, clocks.

Three rule changes are coming to MLB this season: pitch timers, shift restrictions and bigger bases. They will loom over camp this spring, especially once Grapefruit League games begin, as teams try to get their players adjusted to hit the ground running by Opening Day.

On Thursday, the Yankees’ presentation — led by coaching assistant/advance scouting director Brett Weber — was geared toward the pitch timers that are aimed at speeding up the pace of play. Then they put it into motion during their afternoon workouts.

A refresher: There will be a 30-second timer between batters, a 15-second timer between each pitch with the bases empty and a 20-second timer between each pitch with runners on base. The clock begins when the pitcher receives the return throw from the catcher and turns off once he starts his delivery. Clock violations will result in an automatic ball. Pitchers also are allowed two disengagements — a pickoff attempt or stepping off — per batter, and if they attempt a third without getting an out, runners will advance on a balk.

Yankees reliever Greg Weissert and the rest of the staff will spend their spring getting accustomed to pitch timers that will govern the game beginning this season.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“It’ll just be a daily grind of getting them into the flow of it and understanding where all the nuances of it are, the disengagements, the time between, all that stuff,” pitching coach Matt Blake said. “Then [being] aware of what guys have been historically and then obviously there’s certain guys like [Jonathan] Loaisiga and [Clay] Holmes and [Greg] Weissert that are borderline timing-wise. Just getting them used to it, getting them up to speed with it.”

The three names that Blake mentioned will be tasked with shaving some time off their in-between-pitch routines from last season.

According to Baseball Savant — which compiled a “pitch timer equivalent” by subtracting six seconds from their tempo stat (average time between each pitch release) to account for the time between the start of his delivery and receiving the return throw — Loaisiga averaged a team-high 19.8 seconds between pitches with the bases empty in 2022. Holmes averaged 15.8 seconds, Michael King averaged 15.5 seconds and Weissert averaged 15.2 seconds with the bases empty.

Loaisiga’s pitch timer equivalent with the bases empty tied him with Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos as the slowest among qualified pitchers in the majors last year.

New York Yankees relief pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga #43, throwing in the outfield at Steinbrenner Field, the New York Yankees Spring Training complex in Tampa, Florida.
Jonathan Loaisiga ranked as one of the slowest hurlers to deliver a pitch in baseball last season.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Weissert, who does have experience with the pitch clock because it was used in Triple-A last season, was one of the Yankees who threw live batting practice Thursday afternoon with the timer in effect. One clock was just to the left of the batter’s eye in center field and another was on the padded wall between the first-base dugout and directly behind home plate.

“Me standing behind [the mound] today, even watching, I was getting a little antsy with it,” manager Aaron Boone said. “It will be an adjustment, but one we’ve certainly started on.”

With runners on, meanwhile, Frankie Montas averaged 22.5 seconds for the pitch timer equivalent last year, followed by Loaisiga (20.4), King (19.7) and Holmes (19.2).

“There’s a couple guys on the edge of that with time, but without ever having the clock on them, that’s where they were naturally,” Blake said. “Now it’s just a matter of making them aware and trying to tighten up the process a little bit.”

The pitchers the Yankees likely won’t have to worry about? Nestor Cortes averaged 9.0 seconds with the bases empty, Domingo German came in at 10.0 and Luis Severino was 10.3. With runners on, Wandy Peralta was the quickest among qualified Yankees at 15.5 seconds, followed by Cortes (15.7) and Severino (16.0).

New York Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes (65) works out at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
In averaging only nine seconds between pitches in 2022 with no one on base, Nestor Cortes should have little trouble adjusting to the faster pace of play.

Boone said the Yankees will have pitch clocks available in the bullpens at their spring training complex, as well, and pick their spots to use it.

Hitters also will be on the clock — they must be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher by the time there are eight seconds left on the clock. If they are not, they’ll be charged an automatic strike. The Yankees don’t exactly have any Nomar Garciaparras on their roster who must go through an extensive routine between each pitch, but time will tell whether any of them have trouble being ready under the new rules.

Which Yankees might benefit the most from the other two rule changes?

Shift restrictions

A refresher: Defenses must have all four infielders on the dirt or infield grass with two on each side of second base.

Aaron Hicks #31 of the New York Yankees hits a solo home run during the 7th inning.
The new rule on infield shifts should be a welcome sight for Aaron Hicks, who faced shifting defenses in 92.6 of his plate appearances from the left side of the plate.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Gone are the days of a second baseman lining up in shallow right field, which figures to help left-handed batters such as Aaron Hicks and Anthony Rizzo. Hicks, a switch-hitter, was shifted on 92.6 percent of his plate appearances as a left-handed hitter last season, according to Baseball Savant — the 11th-highest clip among all qualified hitters in MLB — while Rizzo faced a shift in 82.6 percent of his plate appearances.

Bigger bases

A refresher: The new bases, which have been described by Red Sox manager Alex Cora as looking like pizza boxes, are now 18 inches by 18 inches instead of 15 by 15. The change is aimed at preventing injuries around the bases, but also should result in an increase in stolen bases, as it did in the minor leagues last year.

The new, larger base sits next to the older, smaller base at TD Ballpark Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, in Dunedin, Fla.
Baseball hopes bases that measure three inches longer on each side will invite more teams to steal.

Two players who took advantage of having a slightly shorter distance between bases in 2022 were Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza. Volpe stole 50 bases in 132 games, and Peraza swiped 33 in 99 games.

Another member of the Yankees’ shortstop competition this spring, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, led the team with 22 steals last season, a number that could increase depending on how much he actually plays this year.

Submit your Yankees questions here and look out for the answers in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Clubhouse geography

Wednesday marked the first day this spring that reporters were allowed into the Yankees’ clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field, which meant it was time to quickly remember or learn where everyone’s locker would be for the next six weeks.

New York Yankees starting pitcher Carlos Rodon walking out to the field at Steinbrenner Field, the New York Yankees Spring Training complex in Tampa, Florida.
Free-agent addition Carlos Rodon quickly settled in the Yankees spring training clubhouse next to Gerrit Cole.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

There aren’t a ton of newcomers, at least among the 40-man roster, but there were some notable changes:

• Luis Severino took over one of the corner lockers that was previously occupied by Aroldis Chapman, who is not at Yankees camp for the first time since 2015.

• Carlos Rodon has the locker next to Gerrit Cole, putting the top two arms in the Yankees rotation close to each other.

• Last spring, the Yankees left open the corner locker that was previously occupied by Brett Gardner. Now it belongs to Aaron Hicks.

The next long shots

New York Yankees relief pitcher Jhony Brito #76, during practice at Steinbrenner Field, the New York Yankees Spring Training complex in Tampa, Florida.
After pitching to a 2.96 ERA across Double-A and Triple-A last year, Jhony Brito might grab role in the Yankees’ bullpen this spring.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

It’s easy to forget, but when spring training started last year, nobody expected Ron Marinaccio and JP Sears would be heading north with the Yankees at the end of camp. Other than both being on the 40-man roster, it was hard to imagine either would make the Opening Day roster, much less turn into valuable contributors during the season — Marinaccio in the bullpen and Sears as a swingman before he was included in the package sent to Oakland in the Frankie Montas trade.

This year, at least at the beginning of camp, there only seem to be a couple of roster spots truly up for grabs. But Marinaccio and Sears serve as a reminder that players you don’t necessarily expect might end up winning jobs with strong springs and perhaps an injury or two elsewhere.

This spring’s candidates to watch on the 40-man roster: RHP Jhony Brito, RHP Jimmy Cordero, LHP Matt Krook.

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