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MLB's new pitch clock rule is already affecting game results | Locked On MLB

A Spring Training game between the Red Sox and Braves had an unexpected ending thanks to MLB's new rules. But fans shouldn't be too concerned yet.

NEW YORK — The big story around Spring Training this week is Major League Baseball’s implementation of the new rules including the shift ban and a limited number of pickoff attempts during an at-bat. 

But there is one rule getting the most attention above all others: the pitch clock rule. 

Aside from it being the most talked about new rule before teams met for camp, some wondered if it could have a big impact on a game result. That scenario ended up coming into play almost immediately in a spring training game between the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves this weekend. That rule is adhering to the new pitch clock.

San Diego third baseman Manny Machado had the honor of being the first MLB player to be in violation of the pitch clock and it happened during the Padres' first Spring Training game on Friday. His violation happened in the bottom of the first inning when the game was tied 0-0 so it wasn’t a key moment in the game.

Unfortunately, Cal Conley, a minor leaguer with the Braves cannot say the same thing.

Conley was in violation of the pitch clock rule during a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Braves. The rule states that a batter has to be back in the box and ready to swing with eight seconds left on the 20-second clock. And because Conley was not in the box when the clock struck :08, the umpire called a strike.

That seems fine, right? Well, it was the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and two outs. The called strike was the third strike, which ended the inning and ended the game because Spring Training games don’t go into extra innings.

Now, picture this same scenario happening in a game that counts, a team is down by a run with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the batter doesn’t get set in time and they end up losing. It’s a scary thought if you’re a fan of a team that could potentially lose the game on a play like this.

But host Lindsay Crosby of the Locked On MLB Prospects podcast has a different take on the Conley incident which he discussed on the latest episode of his show.

“A lot of people are frustrated about this," Crosby said. "Some people are mad about this. There’s a lot of conversation about how this can potentially ruin baseball."

Crosby said it's not going to ruin baseball. Crosby is quick to mention how the pitch clock has already been implemented in the Minor Leagues and how it has worked so far. So he implores everyone who is upset about this incident to take a step back and look at the big picture.

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The pitch clock, implemented in minor league baseball last year, saw a strong drop in infractions related to the rule soon after the season started. So it seems it just needs some getting used to for everyone involved.

Former Major League big leaguer Gordon Beckham tweeted about the violation after it happened and it’s clear from his tweet that he is not thrilled with the pitch clock having a direct role in a game result:

Beckham altered his position by Monday morning after a few back-and-forth tweets with some fans and said that while he’s in favor of baseball trying to fix the pace of play, he’s still not happy with the idea that a pitch clock violation could cause a team to win or lose a contest.

Even though the games don't count, MLB umpires are already following the rules to the letter and that there isn’t any leeway or any bending or reinterpreting of the rules. The players have the entirety of Spring Training to get used to the pitch clock and so do the umps.

The New York Yankees even had minor league umpire Randy Rosenberg working during their live batting practices last week at George M. Steinbrenner Field so both their pitchers and batters could get used to the new clock. Manager Aaron Boone said, “I’m sure on some level there’s that little adjustment. But it’s good to see an umpire behind the plate with some experience with it and to see how the dead time restarts and everything.’’

The reason the rule was brought to the big leagues is that it worked so well in the Minors. Game length was shortened by as many as 20 minutes in some cases and in the era of three and a half hour long, nine-inning games, Major League Baseball believes the pitch clock will work for them as well. But until the players get used to it, there may be some violations in the first few months around baseball.

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