WEST PALM BEACH — Pitch clocks with a 20-second time limit will be used when exhibition games start later this week in preparation for potential implementation during the regular season.
Commissioner Rob Manfred, speaking at Sunday’s MLB spring media event, said there will be a “soft phased-in” implementation with no penalties (a ball in the count) to get players and umpires accustomed to the clock, which is used in the minors. Details will be announced soon.
MLB has the right to implement the clocks as part of an initiative to improve pace of play, though Manfred said they were still hopeful of negotiating an agreement with the players union that could include other elements, such as a recent proposal requiring relievers to face a minimum of three batters.
“The only prudent course for us at this point is to be in a position to proceed (with the clock),” Manfred said.
Other changes could be more complicated to implement; Manfred said there was no hard cutoff date in order to be ready for the March 28 season openers.
• Manfred said MLB and the Rays ownership group “remain focused” on finding a stadium solution in the Tampa Bay market and “are going to turn over every last stone and possibility” to do so. He said last week that the focus was back on St. Petersburg. “We feel that the commitment to our fans in those existing markets is a really important one,” he said.
• Manfred cited the Rays’ 90-win season as proof the players union was wrong in suggesting some teams weren’t trying to win, as it filed a grievance against the Rays and three other teams over revenue-sharing spending.
"The assertion that teams aren’t trying started last spring training with (union chief) Tony Clark singling out four teams,'' Manfred said. "He did very poorly with those four teams. One won 97 games (Oakland), one won 90 (Tampa Bay), one was one game above .500 I think, two games (Pittsburgh), okay?
"So this narrative that our teams aren’t trying just isn’t supported by facts. Our teams are trying. Every single one of them wants to win. It may look a little different to outsiders because the game has changed, the way that people think about the game, the way that people think about putting a winning team together has changed. But that doesn’t mean they’re not trying.’’