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 the San Diego Padres slugger wasn’t in the batter’s box on time.
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Facing Seattle Mariners pitcher Robbie Ray, Machado didn’t get his left foot into the batter’s box in the eight seconds he’s allowed. Blakney called the time, signaled on his wrist for a clock violation, and announced that the score was now 0-1.
While on the tightrope, pitchers will now have 15 seconds to throw a pitch (20 seconds with a runner on base), but hitters have only eight seconds to set up. A batter who violates the clock will be penalized with a strike, while pitchers who do so will be awarded a ball.
Machado admitted that it will take some getting used to.
«I’m going to have to make a big adjustment. I could be down 0-1 a lot this year.» he said. «It’s super fast. There will definitely be an adjustment.»
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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 between MLB teams on Friday (the Boston Red Sox had a fight 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.
Granted, that’s a miniscule sample size, and considering it’s early spring training, many minor leaguers, who are well used to the faster pace, are playing. So maybe not the best indicator. But if baseball wants to get back to the good old days, it’s off to a good start, and the minor leagues’ sample size is surely pretty big.
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Last season, the average nine-inning game lasted three hours and three minutes, and the average length hasn’t been less than three hours since 2015 (2:56). You have to go back to 1978, the last time the average game took less than two and a half hours.