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Baseball heads meet over pitch clocks, mound visits

By Ronald Blum

AP Baseball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and players’ association head Tony Clark met Tuesday, five days after the union rejected Major League Baseball’s proposal to institute pitch clocks and limits on mound visits.

Management has the right to implement the rules changes it proposed last year. Under baseball’s labor contract, management can change on-field rules on its own with one season of advance notice.

MLB does not intend to make any decision before its next owners’ meetings, scheduled for next week in Beverly Hills, California. Big league spring training games start Feb. 23 and the season opens March 29.

“We discussed a wide range of topics,” Clark said in an email. “I will now be discussing each of those topics with our player leadership.”

Manfred declined comment.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the 2017 regular season and 3:29 during the postseason, and the length of games has concerned club owners and executives in an age where they compete for consumers with more entertainment choices and shorter attention spans.

“It would be nicer to have the games move a little quicker. At the same time, you’re asking guys who’ve been playing at a high level their whole life to do something completely differently than they normally do,” Colorado center fielder Charlie Blackmon, the NL batting champion, explained last weekend. “I’m going to be resistant to change right out of the gate, no matter what it is.”

Under the proposal MLB can implement, there would be a 30-second clock between batters and a 20-second clock between pitches, according to details obtained by the AP.

A hitter would be required to be in the batter’s box with at least 5 seconds left on the timer. The clock would start when the pitcher has the ball on the mound, except for the first pitch of an at-bat, when it would start at the end of the previous play.

The clock would reset when a pitcher steps off the rubber and when he makes or feints a pickoff throw.

An umpire would issue a warning to a pitcher or batter for a first violation each game, and subsequent violations by the same player would result in a ball being called against a pitcher and a strike against a batter.

Under the proposed limit on mound visits, a team would be allowed one per pitcher each inning, whether by a manager, coach or player. A second visit would result in the team being forced to change pitchers.

During bargaining, MLB offered to start the pitch clock this year only with no runners on base and delay its use with runners on until 2019.

“When you go to the ballpark, you go to spend the day and the night at the ballpark,” Rockies All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado said. “I don’t think you want to spend a night at the ballpark for hour and a half or two hours, think you want to be there for a little longer than that. I don’t get it.”

___

AP Sports Writer Pat Graham contributed to this report.

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