Max Scherzer has theorized that baseball’s new pitch clock will allow pitchers to dictate the tempo of games.
In the eyes of one referee, he was speeding too fast even for Friday’s pitch timer.
Scherzer, on his second start in spring training, tested the limits of baseball’s new rules of the game and tried several unusual tactics to put Washington Nationals batsmen out of the game. At one point, he started throwing a pitch to Victor Robles when Plate umpire Jeremy Riggs turned the clock back and Riggs called Scherzer about a drag.
“He calls time, I come, I get the green light,” said Scherzer. “I thought that was a clean pitch. He said no. We have to find out where the line is.”
Major League Baseball’s pitch clock has led to pitchers and hitters learning a whole new pace for the game this spring. Players have 30 seconds to resume play between batters. Between pitches, pitchers have 15 seconds to deliver the ball when there is no turn and 20 seconds when there is a baserunner.
Batters must be in the box alerting the pitcher with at least eight seconds left on the clock, and are only allowed one timeout per plate appearance.
Some adapt to and use the rules more quickly than others. Wandy Peralta, a New York Yankees substitute, rushed through an at-bat so effectively Thursday that he completed a three-pitch strikeout in just 20 seconds.
Scherzer experimented with a few strategies on Friday.
With two ons and two strikes against Riley Adams in the third inning, Scherzer froze in his seeded position and ticked the pitch clock down to seven before Adams called a timeout.
On the next pitch, Scherzer was discontinued as the 20 second clock began. Adams eventually entered the pits with the clock at 11 seconds, and Scherzer delivered immediately, getting a swinging punch on a 96-mile fastball.
“You can tell they expected me to work fast today and you can use that work to your advantage by speeding up and slowing down the game,” Scherzer said.
Not all experiments worked. Not only was Scherzer called out for a block, but he also had a double play late in the inning that was nullified when the umpires ruled he had narrowly run out the pitch clock before beginning 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. “Everyone up here is looking for a competitive advantage — hitter, pitcher, catcher — and it’s a good time to test those things.”