On Friday night, minor league baseball officially started to enforce its new pace-of-play rules in Triple-A and Double-A games, by calling penalties for pitch clock and batter’s box violations.
But the rules have been in place for the entire first month of the season — just not enforced. Umpires merely issued verbal warnings.
For the month of April in the Pacific Coast League, batters were not stepping out of the box. Pitchers knew the pitch clock was winding down and quickly went about their business. Between-innings promotions were limited to 90 seconds.
“The biggest thing for (pitchers) has been between innings,” said third-year Rainiers reliever Logan Bawcom. “If your catcher makes the last out, you kind of have to hurry. The other day I got shortened on my warmup pitches.”
Even without umpires handing out penalties, the game has sped up. Through Friday, nine-inning PCL games were averaging 2 hours, 48 minutes to complete — a 10 minute drop off from last year’s average of 2:58.
Tacoma has seen one of the biggest improvements. The Rainiers’ first 19 nine-inning games (through Saturday) have averaged 2:46. Last season the same number of nine-inning contests in April clocked in at an average of 3:08 — 22 minutes longer.
“We’ve been talking about it in the bullpen,” said Bawcom. “We got the full list of rules the other day. If you just get the ball and get rid of it, you should be OK.”
SEAGER MAKES PCL DEBUT
Mariners star Kyle Seager has a younger brother who has a higher pedigree as a prospect than Kyle did.
The Los Angeles Dodgers drafted Corey Seager out of Northwest Cabarrus High School (Concord, NC) in the first round of the 2012 draft, making him the 18th player selected overall.
Seager has quickly shot through the Dodgers’ farm system and has become one of the most highly-ranked prospects. On preseason top 100 lists of prospects, Seager was ranked No. 5 by ESPN and “Baseball America” and No. 7 by “Baseball Prospectus.”
Seager was promoted to Oklahoma City on Friday, going 2 for 5 with an RBI in his Triple-A debut. This was after he hit .375 with five home runs, 15 RBIs, and a .675 slugging percentage in 20 games at Double-A Tulsa.
The 21-year-old shortstop is listed at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, compared to Kyle’s 6-0, 210 pounds.
Tacoma fans won’t get a look at the younger Seager this year. The Rainiers play at Oklahoma City in mid-August, but the Dodgers aren’t scheduled to visit Tacoma until the 2016 season.