First Pitch: How the Pitch Clock Could Affect Rehab Assignments and Other Scenarios

With the proposal of testing the pitch clock in Minor League Baseball this season, several issues come to mind.

After the use in the Arizona Fall League, the clocks met mixed reviews across the board. Those mixed opinions will certainly continue, as the clock will likely be implemented in Double-A and Triple-A parks this season.

Though the everyday Minor League pitchers will have a tough first month or so adjusting to it, one major issue is what is to be done with it when a Major League pitchers makes a rehab appearance?

The rehabbing hitter won’t have nearly the same issue, as the clock does not play into their plate preparation, it could be vital for a pitcher trying to work off the rust after an injury. Not only is the pitcher trying to get back in the groove on the mound, they are also looking to work on things in the last few starts in the rehab stint. The pitch clock could make that difficult, as they will have something else to pay attention to.

Last year, both Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole saw rehab stints following injuries. Cole’s assignment lasted four starts at Indianapolis, while Liriano saw one at the same level. Depending on where the pitch clock is used, that could impact where the rehab assignments take place. If it is eventually universally used throughout the Minor Leagues, it could impact the use of rehab starts altogether, limiting them just to extending Spring Training.

There is no doubt that injuries are coming throughout the season, especially with pitchers. The pitch clock could have a serious impact, as getting in-game reps in rehab assignments are an extremely important portion in the process of getting back to big league game ready. It also aids pitchers in facing hitters at the top of other minor league organizations to get back into big league shape, where it is believed that the pitch clock will be used.

The top levels of the organization also house some of the top prospects within an organization, which is true with the Pirates. Basically, you are asking these pitchers to alter their game plan and change the way that they work, while they are trying to make growth. There is also a situation like Jameson Taillon’s, who might begin his season in extended Spring Training, only to get thrown into this later in the year. That is quite an adjustment within the season for someone coming off Tommy John surgery.

As for everyday pitchers in the Minor League level, those who work quickly will see a marginal difference and slower workers will have to adjust their approach significantly. Late inning relievers, who are accustomed to holding leads and baserunners will also have a hard time with the adjustment as well.

According to Baseball America, the use of the pitch clock would likely put one 20-second pitch clock behind the plate and one along the outfield wall. The clock would also include no more than 2:05 in between innings.

A nice loophole for pitchers nearing the end of the clock, is tossing over to first base several times to refresh it. That seems like a difficult fix as well, unless umpires and baseball officials want to go far enough to limit how many times per inning that you can throw over. In fact, the pitcher is not allowed just to step off the rubber anymore, and must throw to either a base or home before the clock expires, or the hitter will be rewarded ball added to their count.

While it clearly needs to get some bugs worked out, the pitch clock is coming this season – whether we like it or not. However, the adjustment will not just be for the everyday Minor League players, it will also affect planning within the organization long-term.

**The Other Tall, Hard-Throwing Pirates Pitcher Returning From Tommy John Surgery

**Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Top Prospects: #10 – Elias Diaz. The top ten countdown resumes tomorrow. The entire top 50 is exclusive to the 2015 Prospect Guide, along with 200+ reports on every prospect in the system.

**Winter Leagues: Gorkys Hernandez Homers, Shows Off Great Defense (With Video)

  • If MLB wants to schedule more games around the weekend to get more people attending and increase the fan base, the only way you are going to do that is with more double headers. That may take increasing the active roster from 25 man to 30 man and some union negotiations (add one additional year of arbitration for under 21 / high school draftees?) to keep costs down.

    A 162 game season is played out over about 24 weeks. And so each team has to squeeze in an average of about 6 games a week. Double header on Friday, Single Game / Off day on Saturday, Double header on Sunday takes care of 4-5 games.

    Major League Baseball needs to focus its attention on the weekend to get more kids watching baseball.

    5 game series were quite common during the 1950’s and early 1960’s. They have died off with the various league expansions over time.
    However, for inter division play they make perfect sense.

    Right now the Pirates / Reds / Cubs / Cardinals / Brewers will face each other 19 times. Bump that to 20 times (replace 2 inter league games and 2 games against same league opponents) brings you to a magic number of 20 games consisting of four 5 game series.

    During 16 weekends of the year (4 series x 4 teams per series), your favorite team is going to play 5 games in 3 days, a weekend Bucco Bonanza.

  • Much ado about nothing IMO, 20 sec is a long time between pitches with no one on base. Seriously, watch some Pirate games form last year, our pitches aren’t that slow. The existing rule is 12 seconds anyway and that should be enforced. .

  • I am in continued amazement at the diametrically opposed ideas baseball keeps throwing out there. What do they really want?

    They want to SPEED up the game with a pitch clock.

    Yet, they added instant replay: slows down the game
    Want more offense: more offense means longer games.
    Want to eliminate defensive shifts: less defense means longer games.
    The best way to achieve shorter games is to have more no-hitters, 1-hitters. Not some drawn out 10-8 game.

    I think instant replay continues to be absurd. Why they are reviewing stolen bases is beyond me? It supposed to overturn obvious mistakes. Some official upstairs should be able to watch the video from the previous play ONCE and in real speed. If it isn’t an obvious mistake, they move on.

    The absurdity of eliminating defensive shifts has already been shown in discussions during the last few days.

    If they really want to shorten the games. Shorten the time between half-innings.

    If that doesn’t do it, let’s, I don’t know, shorten it to 2 strikes being out. That would get more guys hacking. More exciting game!! Though, you’d have to change the line in the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. Get rid of foul balls not counting as strikes after you have the full amount!!

    • Oh, I forgot, let’s take it from 9 innings down to 7 (or maybe 5). Short, exciting games!!

      • The complaining from the media over the extra time for instant replays was ridiculous. The average delay for the replay was just under two minutes and the reviews happened on an average of every other game, so with nothing else considered, it added an average of one minute(rounding up) per game. What that doesn’t take into consideration is all of the managers that came out to argue during games and sometimes spent longer than two minutes out there before replays. You would have to do a lot of assuming since you have no idea how many times a manager would have argued, but there is a chance that replays actually saved time. I would say the actual added time per game was somewhere around 30 seconds because we would see about once every other game where a manager would come out, look at the bench and walk back, wasting about 20 seconds in the process. I’m not going to complain about an extra 30 seconds when so many calls were overturned. I think the replays actually added some drama, since arguing by a manager almost never did a thing except get him thrown out. There was a chance you could see the call changed and unless Angel Hernandez was in charge, you didn’t sit there mad about a call going against your team in a big spot.

        • Yeah, I actually don’t care about the length of time of instant replays take, but I think the league continues to send mixed signals about shortening games and then trying to add offense, which would lengthen them.

          I know it’s been discussed ad naseum but I think instant replay is not being done in the spirit of how it was presented – to overturn obvious mistakes. Not to go frame-by-frame checking out a stolen base!! Because then it causes the other arguments that go along with it: how much “wrong” do you want to eliminate from the game? Ball/strike calls, especially. That’s what bothers me, not the amount of time it takes.

      • 7 innings, 4 outs per inning would cut off 15-20 minutes per game just from the reduced between inning dead time.
        And you could see the rarest of defensive feats – the quadruple play!! 🙂

    • re: “Get rid of foul balls not counting as strikes after you have the full amount!!” This idea, or some variation of it has a lot of merit. This would eliminate the strategy of intentionally fouling balls off, or working the pitcher for a 12 pitch or more at bat. Taken as written the most pitches that could be thrown in an at bat would be six. If baseball wanted a softer approach they could at least limit the total number of foul balls to say 4, then the fifth foul ball and you are out. Today the average number of pitches per at bat seems to be about 3.75, whether you have a good pitching or poor pitching team. So the ball is usually put in play well beneath the proposed maximum anyway.

  • I give up! The darn lunatics can have the asylum! Forget the meek, the dumb@$$es are inheriting the earth! The end is nigh,run to the hills!! Relax, just injecting a little extra humor into an already hilarious situation, although I do think the lunatics are running the asylum.

    • pb: Regardless of the method, we have to speed up the game, eliminate the face time for hitters who want to step away from the box, adjust (advertise) their hitting gloves, take a sign from the 3B Coach, and then take another 5 seconds or more to step into the box, and hold the pitch until they get themselves perfectly situated to hit. Simple rule – hitters are not allowed to leave the box – they can step out with one foot, but only to take the sign, and be ready to hit within 10 seconds of the previous pitch. That 10 seconds is the same a pitcher will have to get the ball back from the Catcher and get back on the rubber ready to throw. No strolls around the mound to “gather” yourself. If the pitcher needs to clean his spikes or get some resin, he better hustle. It used to be that the 3rd base coach gave the signals to the batter. Now we have Managers or others sending signs to the 3rd base coach, who then has to relay the signal to the batter – delay, delay, delay, and it adds up.

      Ryan: If a pitcher is not ready to get into a live game, then he continues to throw bullpens until he is ready. Pitchers coming back on rehab do not need more time in between pitches – the total number of pitches is a concern, and the number of pitches in any one inning is a concern. I know the Pirates used to have the rehab guy (whether a SP or RP) start the game so that they would be well warmed up and ready to go to the mound, and they may have only pitched one inning in their first live game.

      • I agree emjay, baseball used to be played that way. There were a few guys who would fiddle around but for the most part hitters would be ready to hit and pitchers would be ready to pitch. Now even the rookies and bench players have bad velcro on thier gloves and a bad case of athletes foot as for pitchers well let’s just say they have always been a bit fidgety to say the least. As far as the pitch clock I am not against it in the minors as I feel it will condition players to get ready to hit or pitch before they get to the bigs.

  • Kinda wonder whether base stealers could use that pitch clock if a pitcher almost takes the timer down to zero. So with 1 second left, the runner could take off without any worries. Does the ball have to be out of the pitcher’s hand when timer hits zero or the pitcher must be in the windup toward home? Also wouldn’t the MLBPA have to agree to this change — at least in the majors?

  • Another dumb arse idea by MLB. Of course, this is the same group of people that have decided that each league will play with different rules (DH vrs. No DH), so it doesn’t surprise me.

    On another totally separate note: What happen to all the avatars we used to have? Seems they went “Poof” 🙂

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