Like it or not, Tigers will have to make fast adjustment to new pitch timer rules

Detroit News

Detroit — Say this about Tigers catcher Eric Haase — he speaks his mind, forthrightly.

He was in town Thursday, along with teammates Matthew Boyd and Matt Manning and manager AJ Hinch, taking part in a scaled-down Winter Caravan, and he was asked what he thought about the new pitch timer that Major League Baseball is putting into law beginning next season.

“I really don’t understand the need for it, honestly,” he said. “A couple of years ago, they wanted us to take more time between innings to make sure we got the commercials going and everything. Now, they’re trying to speed it up. I just don’t think the game needs it.

“We’re growing revenues every single year. There’s no shortage of fans. There’s no shortage of young fans at the games. I just don’t see the need for it.”

Like it or not, he and everyone else will have to get used to it quickly. Pitchers will have 15 seconds between pitches with the bases empty, and 20 seconds with men on base. Hitters have to be in the box and ready to hit with eight seconds left on the clock.

It will be, to say the least, a point of emphasis this spring.

“We have to attack that from Day One,” Hinch said. “It’ll start with an explanation and some presentations. We will practice with a clock, throw bullpens with a clock — just to get them used to reality. And for hitters, too. Live batting practice has usually been a casual environment for the last 100 years of baseball. Now, they are going to be timed.”

Some of the early spring training games might be a little fraught, as hitters and pitchers get used to the new pace. Eventually, though, the expectation is adjustments will be made and it will quickly blend into normalcy.

The question will be whether the league and players association agree to take away the clock for the postseason — something that agent Scott Boras campaigned for back in November.

“There should be no pitch clock in the postseason,” Boras said to a large throng of reporters at the General Managers’ Meetings in Las Vegas. “It’s their big moment and they need more time. It’s a different scenario than the regular season, and we don’t want their performance rushed.”

Boras said he understood, for the “efficiency of the game,” why baseball would use the clock in the regular season. But not in the postseason.

“It’s a completely different emotional environment,” he said. “It’s a setting that means so much more, where all their work and effort, where all their goals and achievements are on the line. We want them to have the appropriate time for pitchers and position players to evaluate and move forward in the most prepared and direct way.”

Mending fences

It was illuminating listening to pitchers Boyd and Manning talk about the new dimensions that will be in place at Comerica Park next season — the center-field wall moved in 10 feet, with seven-foot walls from foul pole to foul pole across the outfield.

You’d think they’d lament the slightly shorter and closer wall, right? Not so much.

“The benefits for everyone trump the extra 10 feet of having a bigger park for me,” Boyd said. “A guy hits a ball 415 feet, he probably should get a home run, and I probably didn’t do something right on that pitch. My job is to miss barrels.

“It will be better for our hitters. There’s always been something a little ominous about that big sign out there (420 feet) and our guys have to hit there 81 times a year. It’s better to have that benefit for those guys than have that extra 10 feet for me.”

Manning took it in a different direction.

“Yeah, it went from having the deepest ballpark to still having the deepest ballpark in center field,” he said, with a grin. “It’s still deep out there. But I take it in context of it plays more fair to all 30 ballparks. So it’s 2-0 and I can’t just groove a heater and think it’s not going to get out of Comerica Park anymore.

“If you take that mindset on the road, it’s different. It plays more fair to all ballparks, so you go into every stadium with the same mindset.”

Haase, who was a proponent of bringing in the fences even during last season, agrees that moving the fence in 10 feet in center field won’t make a huge difference in the home-run totals. But, it might be a huge boost for hitters’ psyches.

“I think it’s more mental, just part of the psyche you bring into the box with you,” he said. “When you walk up for your second at-bat after flying out 430 feet in your first at-bat and you look up and it’s a 0-0 game and you’re like, ‘OK. I stayed with my approach, put a good swing on it and that’s an out.’ It’s hard to have that on your head going back for your next at-bat.

“It’s hard not to think that you have to try and do a little bit more. After the game, they tell you that’s a home run in 29 of 30 ballparks, and guess which park we played in today. It’s frustrating from that aspect.”

Less of that would be nice.

Coaching staff complete

Hinch finalized his coaching staff Thursday, announcing the hiring of catching coach Tim Federowicz.

Federowicz, 35, played parts of eight seasons in the big leagues, including a stint with Hinch in Houston. His last season as a player was in 2021. Last season, he managed Seattle’s Triple-A team in Tacoma.

The Tigers will have a 10-man coaching staff next season: Bench coach George Lombard, first base coach and infield coach Alfredo Amezega, third base coach and outfield coach Gary Jones, hitting coaches Michael Brdar, James Rowson and Keith Beauregard, pitching coaches Chris Fetter, Juan Nieves and Robin Lund, and Federowicz.

Twitter: @cmccosky

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