PORT ST. Lucie, Fla. — For Adam Ottavino, a thinking man’s reliever and a veteran of a dozen major-league seasons, the pitch clock implemented by MLB this season is an opportunity.
“For the most part, if you’re pitching well, I think you want to push the pace and make the hitter a little uncomfortable and control it,” Ottavino said after throwing a bullpen session Monday, his first day at Mets spring training.
“You can still control it as a pitcher. You can take the full time or go faster. All that stuff is going to come into play. It’s a comfort thing. Practice is really all there is.”
And practice is what the next six weeks are for. Ottavino, who trained with a pitch clock during the offseason, noted that “I definitely have to be faster,” but he is looking forward to experimenting with how best to perform within the new rules.
There will be a 15-second timer between pitches with the bases empty and a 20-second timer with runners on. If a pitcher doesn’t begin his delivery in time, he’ll be charged with an automatic ball. If the batter isn’t in the box and alert with eight seconds to go, he’ll be charged with an automatic strike.
The key, according to Ottavino: The pitcher is allowed to step off the mound (or attempt a pickoff) twice per plate appearance. That will reset the timer. The ball is literally in their hands.
“The only time it’ll be a factor is a huge moment, a huge spot, and you’re in between on what to throw — you’re going to have to find a way to kill [reset] the clock there,” he said. “You’re going to have to know your fail-safes. That’s kind of what spring training is going to be about, for me at least, with the clock: Understanding what mechanisms I have for when I need to slow the pace down, how to do that.”