SCOTTSDALE — The first day of full-squad spring training was accompanied by a development that overshadowed the workouts when MLB announced changes to the pace-of-play rules for the 2018 season. Among the changes announced was a limit to the amount of mound visits a team can make during a game, a timer between pitching changes, and the dropping of the pitch clock.
“I like it the way it has always been, I’m pretty traditional with it,” said Rockies starting pitcher Jon Gray, who is entering his fourth season in the big leagues.
The biggest change this season is the mound visits. Teams will now be allowed six mound visits per nine innings.
The official MLB definition of a mound visits is as follows: “A manager or coach trip to the mound to meet with the pitcher shall constitute a visit. A player leaving his position to confer with the pitcher, including a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player, shall also constitute a mound visit, regardless of where the visit occurs or the length of the visit.”
Exceptions to what constitutes a mound visit are pitcher-catcher discussions between batters, when a manager or coach goes to the mound to make a pitching change, when an infielder goes to the mound to clean his spikes during rainy conditions, and a visit to the mound after a pinch-hitter is announced.
Other than that, each time a manager, coach, or player heads to the mound to talk to the pitcher, it counts as a visit. Once those six visits are exhausted, it is at the umpires’ discretion to allow the catcher out to the mound to confer with the pitcher.
“I think that some of the beauty of our game is some of the interactions that do maybe, at times, cause a pause in the game,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “The strategy moments on the mound, infield visits, pitching coach visits, those are strategic and important to the outcome of a game. That’s what I don’t want to mess with.”
Yency Almonte, a pitching prospect within the Rockies organization, doesn’t have a problem with the ever-changing pace-of-play rules.
“Most of the time when the manager comes out, it is more when you are struggling, so I feel like if you are going with the pace, I feel like it isn’t going to limit anything either way, so I’m not against it,” Almonte said.
Changes to the rules of MLB have never come without pushback. Even something like a manager challenging a call and having the umpires review the play, an act that has been standard in other sports for decades, wasn’t implemented in the big leagues until 2014.
“I think that there is a great tradition to this game and how it is played,” Black said. “Can we shave off some minutes? Absolutely.”
Another way MLB will look to shave off some minutes is with shorter commercial breaks. During the regular season and nationally televised games, commercial breaks between innings will be twenty seconds shorter than the previous time between innings.
For postseason games, commercial breaks between innings will last 2 minutes and 55 seconds.
Thanks to the shorter times between innings, pitchers will be required to have their warm-up pitches thrown within that time. If the pitcher doesn’t get as many pitches as they wanted, they will not be allowed more. Once the game is back from the commercial break a pitch needs to be thrown.
Violating the time between innings will result in a fine. The previously discussed penalty of a ball/strike awarded to the batter/pitcher hasn’t made its way into the game just yet.
For Gray, that is just fine.
“That would be just a little bit too much,” Gray said.