WATCH: Manny Machado hit with automatic strike in spring training’s first pitch clock violation
The spring practice exhibition games started on Friday and we didn’t have to wait long to see the first innings violation. San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado was hit by an automatic hit in the first inning because he was not in the box and was not paying attention to pitcher, Seattle Mariners left-hander Robbie Ray, with at least eight seconds left on the timer . It was the first inning of Machado’s first spring at-bat (GameTracker).
Here is the first-ever violation of the serving clock in a game involving major league players:
Automatic hit on Manny Machado pic.twitter.com/aOEYhYqDxm
— Mr Matthew CFB (@MrMatthewCFB) February 24, 2023
The call from home court umpire Ryan Blackney was not clear—Bally Sports broadcasters thought the call was on the catcher for not being ready at the eight-second mark—and no automatic hit was placed on the TV bug. It’s a kink that needs to be ironed out before the regular season. The referee’s call should clarify who committed the violation.
With the new pitching timer, pitchers have 15 seconds to pitch with empty bases and 20 seconds with runners on base. The batter has to be in the box and alert the pitcher at the eight-second mark, so it’s both the hitter’s clock and the pitcher’s clock. In Machado’s case, he appeared to be in the box just in time, but was not seen as focused on the pitcher.
If the pitcher breaks the pitcher’s timer, it’s an automatic ball. If the batter breaks the pitch timer, as Machado did, it’s an automatic hit. “I’m going to have to make a big adjustment,” Machado said later during the game’s broadcast. “Maybe I lost 0-1 a lot this year… there was definitely an adjustment period, but I entered the history books.”
Morgan Sword, MLB’s EVP of Baseball Operations, recently called the clock on the field “probably the biggest change baseball has made in most of our lives.”
The pitch timer has been used at several minor league levels for several years. Last season, Triple-A used a 15-second timer with empty bases and a 19-second timer with players on base, and averaged two hours and 43 minutes of play time. In 2021, that was three hours and four minutes. That’s a pretty significant reduction.
“Our guiding light in thinking about changes to the game has always been our fans. What do our fans want to see on the pitch? We have done a thorough and constant research with our fans and some things are really clear. No. 1, fans want games to be more dynamic”, Commissioner Rob Manfred told MLB.com earlier this month. “… The rule changes we are announcing today have been carefully tested and refined over many years in the minor leagues.”
At the Triple-A level last year, there were roughly three serve violations per game in the first week of the season. A month later, that number was down to one infringement in every other game. The first few games of the spring will bring a lot of violations, it’s inevitable, but give the players time and they will adjust to the new rules. They always do.
Hall of Famer President Josh Ravich will take part in Friday’s game and bring the official results sheet to Cooperstown. according to USA Today. In addition to the innings hours, MLB is also enforcing a ban on extreme infield changes as well as using larger bases this season. Here’s everything you need to know about the new rules.