FORT MYERS, Fla. – Having a digital clock counting down between every pitch, Jose Berrios said Monday, is certain to become incredibly annoying.
To hitters, he meant. “I pitch pretty fast. I just get the ball, rub up the ball if it’s a new one, and I’m ready for the next pitch,” the Twins All-Star righthander said. “But maybe for the hitters, they’ll have to be ready, and they don’t like it. And that’s OK with me.”
Under Commissioner Rob Manfred’s orders, spring training games will serve as a testing ground for the new rules, and Manfred has the option of unilaterally instituting the pitch clock for the regular season, too, though he hopes to negotiate an agreement with the players. In the minor leagues, pitchers must deliver a pitch within 15 seconds of receiving the ball if the bases are empty, and 20 seconds if a runner is on base. The clock is reset when a pitcher steps off the rubber or makes a pickoff throw, but a ball is added to the count if the clock runs out.
In addition, a strike is added to the count if a hitter is not in the batter’s box at least seven seconds before the clock runs out, a wrinkle that pitchers such as Berrios and teammate Tyler Duffey enjoy. “I can’t wait to see an umpire ring a guy up [on a third strike] for not being in the box,” Duffey said. “That’s when you’ll know they’re serious about it.”
The penalties might not be enforced during Grapefruit and Cactus League games this spring, since players and umpires are still getting used to the rules. And Manfred has not said whether the rules, which trimmed more than 10 minutes off the average time of minor league games, will be put in place for the regular season.
“We’ll talk to our players and see how they feel,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how it works, because it has been talked about for a long time.”
Most Twins pitchers surveyed Monday said they don’t expect it to be a major change. Some even applaud the action.
“I’m quick, so I don’t really pay attention. I’ll be under 20 seconds every time,” righthander Addison Reed said. “I like it.”
Kyle Gibson got used to the rule during a minor league stint in 2017, and found a loophole. “I don’t see it as a be-all, end-all. There are ways to get around it. If you get your sign, you come set and you step off [the rubber], the 20 seconds resets,” he said. Who might be affected? Gibson couldn’t think of a current teammate, just a former one. “People always gave [Mike] Pelfrey a hard time about working slow,” he said.
Miguel Sano’s status remains uncertain, Baldelli said, until the laceration on the third baseman’s lower right leg can be more completely assessed. Sano did not take part in fielding drills or batting practice Monday, but was present for infielders’ meetings as they went over signs and the team’s plans for infield shifts.
“He was happy to come out, he was in a good mood and he’s feeling great,” Baldelli said. “I’m encouraged with how he says he feels. … As far as the way he’s moving around, to the eye, he’s moving around well.”
• Torii Hunter said he was approached by Fox Sports North to be part of Twins broadcasts again this year but turned the offer down. “I want to focus on working with players, the minor leaguers instead,” he said, in his role as special assistant. Hunter also is a partner in Tender Smokehouse, a barbecue restaurant in Celina, Texas.
• Dean Anna, a 32-year-old infielder who played in 13 big-league games for the Yankees and Cardinals in 2014 and ’15, chose to retire rather than take part in Twins camp as a nonroster invitee.
Let’s meet Luke Raley
Position: outfield/first base
2018 stats: A .275 average with a .350 on-base percentage, plus 47 extra-base hits for Class AA Tulsa and Chattanooga.
Acquired: From the Dodgers, along with pitcher Devin Smeltzer and infielder Logan Forsythe, in a trade for Brian Dozier last July.
Role: Could start at AA again, but expect him to earn a promotion to Class AAA Rochester.
Did you know? During his Erie College offseason in 2015, he became the only player in Northwoods League history to hit four home runs in one game, connecting for the Lakeshore Chinooks (who later named him 2015 MVP) on July 4 in Kalamazoo, Mich.