by Tyler Handlan
PEORIA— Citing a lack of cooperation from the players’ association, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced early in spring training that there wouldn’t be any rule changes this season pertaining to a pitch clock or the strike zone.
But those changes could come next season.
San Diego Padres pitchers don’t seem bothered by the prospect of a pitch clock in the majors.
“In the minor leagues when they’ve done it, I’ve never run into the problem,” left-handed reliever Ryan Buchter said. “I personally work quick. However, I think it would be a good reminder. I wouldn’t necessarily enforce it, may be just a reminder to help speed the game up.”
Lefthander Keith Hessler said: “I like to work fairly quickly. Just get the ball, get back on the mound and get to the next pitch. I haven’t really run into too many issues with the pitch clock.”
The proposed change of the strike zone — raising the bottom of it by a few inches — might not go over so easily with pitchers.
“I’ve been playing since 2006, and we’ve been taught to throw to the hollow of the knee,” Buchter said. “Obviously it’s really hard, but that’s kind of where a lot of pitching coaches say to start. Get to the hollow of the knee and make the umpire make a decision.”
The proposed change would raise the strike zone from the bottom of the kneecap (the hollow of the batter’s knee) to top of the kneecap.
“You have a lot of guys who have been doing it for a long time, like some of these guys here,” Buchter said. “It’s going to be hard to make that adjustment and not get on the umpires.”
Around the Padres clubhouse, Buchter’s fellow pitchers had varying views on the impact of the potential new strike zone. But one underlying message resonated – it’s all about adjustments
“Every game is going to be a little different,” righthander Zach Lee said. “Every umpire’s a little different so it’s just a matter of finding a zone and getting to it.”
Padres manager Andy Green sounds ready to deal with the strike-zone change — if and when it occurs.
“It’s individualized,” Green said. “It’s kind of recognizing what’s best for each guy, and if we have to craft a strategy once that’s in place, or not in place, then we’ll craft that strategy at that point in time.”
There is one pace-of-play change for this season — there won’t be any pitches thrown on intentional walks. A signal from the pitcher’s manager will grant the intentional walk.
Padres pitchers spoke about the change in the intentional walk before it became official.
“I’m all right with it, save bullets,” Buchter said. “I’m all for that one, that one’s cool with me.”
Hessler said: “If they think that would help speed it up, I have no problem with it.”
Lee sees an advantage.
“Some guys, they don’t feel comfortable throwing four balls out there, then trying to get back into the zone,” Lee said. “It’s not the throw we make 99 percent of the time, (so) getting back into the zone is troublesome.”
Buchter figures some fans care more about offense than how fast the game goes.
“The fastest games are the games that are 1-0,” Buchter said. “It’s a pitchers’ duel. Fans that really don’t know baseball won’t appreciate it. They’d rather come out and see home runs and doubles and triples.”