Phillies players discuss speed and gray areas of new pitch clock rule


CLEARWATER, Fla. -- In their first spring training game under MLB's new rules, the Phillies beat the Yankees 7-4 in a game that included 17 hits. 

It lasted just 2 hours, 34 minutes.

Get used to it. Games are going to be quicker. Maybe significantly quicker.

MLB has instituted a pitch clock for 2023 and beyond. A pitcher has 15 seconds to deliver the ball with the bases empty or 20 seconds with the bases occupied. A hitter must be in the box and facing the pitcher with no less than eight seconds remaining. Padres star Manny Machado was penalized on Friday for not doing so, resulting in an auto-strike.

There were no major issues for the Phillies and Yankees on Saturday. There was one violation on the afternoon when a Yankees reliever threw a warmup pitch with fewer than 30 seconds left coming back from a break. He was docked a ball, the inverse of Machado having a strike called against him for not being prepared on time.

Taking the temperature of several Phillies hitters, some think the pitch clock rules will be more difficult for pitchers. Josh Harrison, who started at second base Saturday, thinks it gives the pitchers a bit more control than the hitters.

"It was very fast," Harrison said. "My first at-bat, the first two pitches, very fast. I took the first, swung at the second and was like, man, that pitch was kinda quick. I even called time before the next pitch. You only get one chance to call time. Well, I got two strikes the first two pitches so let me call time and try to slow it down a little bit.

"Pitchers have a lot of control with the time. There were a couple pitches here where it felt like the ball was held a little bit. So you've got to choose your one (timeout) wisely."

The Phillies used the early days of camp to prepare their players for the pitch clock, but a game situation, even a spring training game, is a different speed than batting practice. Harrison cited two scenarios in particular that differed from what the Phillies have done in BP. 

"I think it's something that's going to be an adjustment for a lot of us because there's still, I don't want to say gray area, but there's still things we didn't get to see during live BPs, like fouling a ball off the catcher's facemask," he said. "We're up there ready to hit but we don't realize sometimes they have a malfunction. 

"You're gonna have some things within reason like a long foul ball, outfielder just ran. In live BP, we're back in the box, but it's like, oh we have to wait on this guy. ... All things that I'm not worried about, I'm just going to go out there and compete and as you continue to get into games, you'll get that feel for the timing of how much time in between pitches. 

"Even though it felt quick, I still felt like the time of game, 17 hits and it was still two hours. You've gotta get in there and compete. Sometimes it can rush you, but that's the game within the game that everybody's gotta get used to."

Jake Cave, who had two hits and an outfield assist as he tries to crack the Phils' opening-day bench, is one player who already feels used to the changes. The minor leagues adopted the pitch clock last season and Cave spent half the season in Triple A.

"I got accustomed to it. I think it sucks at times, honestly, but at the same time, the game's going to go by quicker, a little more action," he said. "But it doesn't really affect me, I think it's going to affect the pitchers more, in my opinion, maybe some of the guys that are real slow in the box. But I feel like you can foul a pitch off ... like today, I didn't have to rush or anything and still felt like I had plenty of time in between pitches."

Brandon Marsh did have to hustle up to the plate to lead off the bottom of the first inning. Players are used to coming off the field and talking to teammates in the dugout about what kind of stuff the pitcher has. Gotta be quicker with those conversations.

"It went great, it seems like both teams have done some work on this," manager Rob Thomson said. "Quick game. It was 2 hours, 34 minutes and the first three innings took an hour. That felt normal, then it really sped up after that. We'll get used to it."

The best pitcher on the afternoon was reliever Andrew Baker, whose fastball hit 102 mph last summer. He struck out two and induced a popup. He's likely to begin the season in the upper minors but is a name to remember. He might be able to help the Phillies at some point in 2023.

Outfielder/third baseman Weston Wilson, a 28-year-old with 2,410 minor-league plate appearances, was the offensive standout for the Phils. He went 2 for 2 with a two-run homer, a two-run double and a walk. Marsh reached base all three times with two singles and a walk.

It was a split-squad day for the Phillies. Another portion of the team lost, 4-2, to the Tigers in Lakeland. Nick Castellanos, Dalton Guthrie, Scott Kingery and Kody Clemens played in the game. Left-hander Michael Plassmeyer, a candidate for the Phillies' final rotation spot, started and pitched two scoreless innings.

The Phils have another game in Clearwater Sunday against the Twins. Andrew Bellatti gets the ball in the first inning.

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