ST. LOUIS – We’re only eight days away from Opening Day! As the St. Louis Cardinals work to finalize their roster, Busch Stadium crews are also getting ready for the new season.
Crews began installing two pitch clocks earlier this week at the ballpark, one on each side of home plate between the team dugouts. The new digital signs represent an era of a few new rule changes in Major League Baseball, with larger bases and shift bans also taking effect.
A pace-of-play adjustment for pitchers and hitters alike, MLB has adopted a pitch-clock system similar to that of the minor leagues. These are the new rules currently in effect:
- Pitchers are required to throw to hitters within 15 seconds if bases are empty, or 20 seconds if runners are on base.
- Hitters will only be allowed one timeout per plate appearance and must return to the box with eight seconds remaining on the clock. Otherwise, they run the risk of getting called for a strike.
- Pitchers get two disengagements per at-bat, whether that come as a pickoff attempt or mound step-off per batter. Testing that out a third time in an at-bat means a balk if a runner is on base.
Heading into the season, the Cardinals noted there would be adjustments to the game, but reception seemed pretty positive among St. Louis hitters and pitchers.
Some Cardinals staff members are optimistic the new pitch clock rules will improve the overall fan experience.
“The pace of play changes are probably the biggest thing to hit baseball in a long time to make the action more crisp and clean, and really get rid of the dead time in baseball,” said Matt Gifford, vice president of stadium operations for the St. Louis Cardinals. “The game is going so quick now it’s just put it down, enjoy the people you came to the ballpark with, and looks at your phone when you get home.”
There will be four pitch clocks at Busch Stadium for the upcoming season. Two that the pitchers and fielders can see on each side of home plate, and two in the outfield stands that Cardinals staff members are still working to install.
Baseball games had a standard duration of nearly three hours last year. The Cardinals have finished many of their spring games around 2 hours and 30 minutes, nearly half an hour faster than the average in previous years. It’s expected many regular season games without extra innings will finish around that same mark this season.
MLB announced some minor adjustments to the new pitch clock setup Wednesday, though the 15- and 20-second rules will remain in effect.
According to a memo released Wednesday to MLB teams, some timing tweaks will be made based on PitchCom malfunctions, brushback pitches, equipment errors and other instances that could delay the time of a pitch, primarily ones that are beyond the control of a pitcher or hitter.
Commissioner Rob Manfred called the changes “significant” but also described them as “clarifications” based on input from players after the first trial run with the pitch clock in spring games.
SKyFOX, powered by Bommarito Automotive Group, flew over Busch Stadium this morning and spotted one pitch clock from a distance.