MILB

Max Scherzer Tests Pitch Clock Limits, Gets Quick-Pitch Balk

Mar 4, 2023, 4:16 PM

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JUPITER, FLORIDA - MARCH 21: Max Scherzer #21 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch in the fourth inning against the Miami Marlins in the Spring Training game at Roger Dean Stadium on March 21, 2022 in Jupiter, Florida. (

PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida – 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 Friday. At one point, he started throwing a pitch to Victor Robles the moment plate umpire Jeremy Riggs reset the clock, and Riggs called him 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 only get 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.

On Friday night, seven Chicago Cubs pitchers combined on a no-hitter against Manny Machado and the San Diego Padres.

Scherzer experimented with a few strategies Friday.

With two on and two strikes against the 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 a 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.”

JAYME’S BUYING

Jayme Hoskins already is known for picking up the beer tab for fans in Philadelphia.

Now the wife of Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins wants to make sure some fans at spring training have free snacks.

Jayme Hoskins became the heroine of Phillies fans when she picked up the beer tab for a bunch of them in her vicinity at Citizens Bank Park during last year’s World Series.

On Friday, before the Phillies’ game against the Detroit Tigers at BayCare Ballpark, she hid 15 envelopes with gift cards good for snacks sold by concessionaires around the ballpark.
She blasted it out on social media and asked the finders to tag her.

One social media commenter suggested Jayme has become more popular than the Phillies players.

GUERRERO OUT

Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. left Friday’s game with knee discomfort.

Guerrero was seen walking toward the clubhouse with an athletic trainer in the second inning and was replaced defensively by Rainer Nunez to start the third.

He had an RBI single during the first inning in his lone at-bat in the game against Tampa Bay.

The slugger hit .274 with 32 homers and 97 RBIs in 160 games last year.

Guerrero is on the Dominican Republic roster for this month’s World Baseball Classic.

WINDY DAY

Toronto right-hander Kevin Gausman was blown off balance on the mound by gusty winds in his first spring training start against Tampa Bay.

“I worked hard in the offseason to put on some weight, but that wind just knocked me right off,” Gausman said with a smile. “I got lucky that the (pitch) clock manager actually kind of noticed it and re-started it because it was at six seconds.”

Gausman added that situations like that are among things that may need to be addressed by MLB.

“When it’s raining, we don’t have time to sit on the back of the mound and wipe off our spikes after every pitch where we used to be able to,” Gausman said. “Those are little things that are going to come up as spring training goes on, and the more us players that we can bring these things up to them the better off we can make the new changes as a whole.”

NO-NO

Cubs starter Justin Steele and six relievers combined on baseball’s first spring training no-hitter since 2017, blanking the Padres 4-0.

The Cubs said they believed it was the first spring training no-hitter in their history.

Machado, Nelson Cruz and Jake Cronenworth were among the Padres in the starting lineup. Juan Soto, Xander Bogaerts and Fernando Tatis Jr. got the night off.

“It’s a spring training game, but it never feels good to get no-hit,” Padres manager Bob Melvin told reporters. “We’re not going to go home with a smile on our face.”

Steele and Javier Assad went two innings. Brad Boxberger, Adbert Alzolay, Jeremiah Estrada, Cam Sanders and Nick Burdi followed with an inning apiece.

WHATEVER WORKS

After losing 100 games last season, the Cincinnati Reds need all the togetherness and morale building they can get.

This spring, Reds players are putting on regular talent shows, with veteran first baseman Joey Votto donning different costumes to act as master of ceremonies.

“Reds’ Got Talent” is a private, team-only affair that has reportedly featured singing, dancing and magic tricks.

A 3-point basketball shooting contest was also planned by the team.

COLE IN COMMAND

New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole gave up one hit over three scoreless innings against the Detroit Tigers in his first spring training start.

Cole struck out four and allowed just two baserunners. The right-hander’s fastball reached 99 mph during his 51-pitch outing.

“I like how I feel now.” Cole said. “I liked the amount of strikes. I liked the pace.”

This was the first Cole took the mound with the pitch clock that is being used in games this season.

“I’m excited,” Cole said. “It’s going to be great. Get home quicker. It’s going to be awesome.” Cole was 13-8 with a 3.50 ERA in 33 starts last season.

INJURIES

Phillies 19-year-old pitching prospect Andrew Painter is getting tests on his right elbow after reporting some tenderness during his spring training debut Wednesday. He gave up a run and three hits in two innings with a strikeout. He’s been the buzziest prospect in baseball this spring as he tries to crack the NL champions’ opening day rotation. Red Sox left-hander James Paxton left his spring training debut on Friday with a right hamstring injury.

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Max Scherzer Tests Pitch Clock Limits, Gets Quick-Pitch Balk