New rules are coming in 2023 and the Mets are getting ready.
There will be three major rule changes implemented across the Major Leagues next season: A pitch timer, defensive shift limits and bigger bases. It’s pitchers and catchers who will have the biggest adjustments to make with only 30 seconds between hitters and 15-20 seconds between pitches.
With the bases open, pitchers will have a 15-second timer and a 20-second timer with runners on base. If either a pitcher or a hitter goes beyond the time limit, a strike is given to the batter, and a ball to the pitcher.
Mets’ reliever Adam Ottavino is getting a jumpstart on this by using pitch timers in his offseason work.
“I feel like it’s not going to be that difficult for me,” Ottavino said last week on a Zoom call with reporters. “Just a little time with practice has already kind of helped a little bit with that. Also, there are some ways that you can figure out how to kind of stop the clock, if need be, and kind of maybe understanding those in the moment when you need a second to kind of collect yourself. That’s important.”
But Ottavino acknowledges that it’s not going to be easy for every pitcher.
The new rules will almost certainly be a league-wide storyline as spring training opens and games begin, but the problem with implementing them this spring is that several players will be away from their teams for an extended period of time at the World Baseball Classic, and the old rules will be in place for the event.
Keeping the old rules in place for the WBC — the same rules that were in place for the last one in 2017 — is fair to all of the countries competing, even if it does make it difficult for MLB players to come into camp having to play catch-up.
“Once you look into it, you understand the challenges, why they can’t do it that way. We’re not alone,” manager Buck Showalter said. “There are other countries competing and they’re following a different set of rules. So you’re trying to be fair to all the competition in the WBC and I’m sure they felt like, to be fair to everybody, this is the direction they needed to go.”
Even players who are in spring training from start to finish may find the time span difficult to work with.
“I don’t know if we’re going to be you know enough time but I think we are going to make the adjustments to try and get better with it,” catcher Omar Narvaez said.
Narvaez’s role as a catcher will be to help the pitchers stay calm and on track, and helping them stick to the game plan. Communication and preparation will be crucial.
“On the timing during games, that’s where homework will come into play even more,” Narvaez said. “[If I] just keep everybody working and on the same page, then everything is gonna keep moving smooth. So that’s the thing we’re going to work on in work spring training.”
Implementing a pitch timer is an attempt to quicken the pace of games and shorten them as well. According to MLB, a pitch timer reduced the average time of game in MiLB by about 26 minutes. This rule also includes limits on throws to first base, which led to an increase in stolen-base attempts in the minor leagues.
The intention behind the rule is good but the timing of it is difficult with the WBC. However, pitchers and catchers can take some solace in knowing that it will be a challenge for just about everyone. People will start to share information with one another on how to manipulate the clock and how to take advantage of the limited time frames given.
“That’s the kind of stuff that we’re going to be workshopping during spring training,” Ottavino said. “Everybody is across the whole league. So I’m sure some people will have harder time with it than others, but I think overall, we’re pretty good at making adjustments as athletes and I think we’ll be alright.”