Max Scherzer has theorized that baseball’s new pitch clock will allow pitchers to dictate the pace of games.
In the eyes of one umpire, he raced too fast even for the pitch timer Friday.
Scherzer tested the boundaries of baseball’s novel pace-of-play rules during his second spring training start, trying several unusual tactics to get Washington Nationals hitters off their game. At one point, he started throwing a pitch to Victor Robles the moment plate umpire Jeremy Riggs reset the clock, and Riggs called Scherzer for a balk.
“He calls time, I come set, I get the green light,” Scherzer said. “I thought that was a clean pitch. He said no. We have to figure out where the limit is.”
Major League Baseball’s pitch clock has left pitchers and hitters learning a whole new pace to the game this spring. Players have 30 seconds to resume play between batters. Between pitches, pitchers have 15 seconds to deliver the ball with nobody on and 20 seconds if there’s a baserunner.
Batters must be in the box and alert to the pitcher with at least eight seconds on the clock, and they get only one timeout per plate appearance.
Some are adjusting and taking advantage of the rules faster than others. New York Yankees reliever Wandy Peralta rushed through an at-bat so effectively Thursday that he completed a three-pitch strikeout in only 20 seconds.
Scherzer experimented with a few strategies Friday.
With two on and two strikes against Riley Adams in the third inning, Scherzer froze in the set position and let the pitch clock tick down to seven before Adams called timeout.
On the next pitch, Scherzer became set as the 20-second clock started. Adams finally stepped into the box with the clock at 11 seconds, and Scherzer immediately delivered, getting a swinging strike on a 96 mph fastball.
“You can tell they were expecting me to work quick today, and you can make that work to your advantage by speeding up and slowing down the game,” Scherzer said.
Not all the experiments worked. Not only was Scherzer called for a balk, but he also had an inning-ending double play overturned when umpires ruled he had narrowly let the pitch clock run out before starting his delivery.
“Max and a lot of veteran pitchers and pitchers in general are going to use this time to test some things and make some adjustments,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “Everybody up here is looking for a competitive edge — hitters, pitchers, catchers — and it’s a good time to be testing those things.”