Pitch clock, time of game get positive reviews after Yankees' exhibition opener
CLEARWATER, Fla. — The new rules set to be implemented this regular season — all of them, especially the pitch clock, with the intent of speeding up the game — played mostly to rave reviews Saturday afternoon.
Starting with this: The Yankees lost to the Phillies, 7-4, at BayCare Ballpark in a move-it-along 2 hours, 34 minutes.
The ball typically carries in this often wind-blown ballpark, and exhibition games between these clubs that have been completed in less than three hours have been a rarity over the years.
“Infielders are going to love it,” shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa said. “You love when guys work fast.”
Which is generally a truism for all fielders.
“You love when guys work fast,” Kiner-Falefa said. “Defenders hopefully will be more engaged. That’s when guys [on defense] are at their best, when they’re locked in.”
Pitchers have 30 seconds between batters to throw a pitch, 15 seconds during a given at-bat with the bases empty and 20 seconds with men on base. There were no noticeable issues during Saturday’s game.
Batters also have to be mindful of the clock — they must be set in the box by the eight-second mark — and are limited to one timeout per at-bat. Which should mean the end of hitters stepping in and out of the box to constantly adjust their batting gloves or knock dirt from their cleats or swat at the dirt around the box with their bats.
“It’s an adjustment for everybody,” Gleyber Torres said. “It’s no trouble at all. You just have to prepare a little earlier.”
The Yankees spent the last week using the pitch clock during simulated games, even bringing in minor-league umpires to enforce it the last few days of camp.
“I think it’s going to be a good thing for the game,” Aaron Boone said.
Going for the green
The quintet of Kiner-Falefa, reliever Ron Marinaccio, infielder-outfielder Jake Bauers, lefty Tanner Tully and coaching assistant Brett Weber won Friday’s team-bonding activity, which was held at PopStroke, a Tiger Woods-designed miniature golf course in Tampa. First prize was the use of a suite for an upcoming Tampa Bay Lightning game. Nestor Cortes won the individual honors in the competition, with his prize a first-class round-trip airline ticket to the destination of his choosing.
Longtime bullpen coach Mike Harkey will leave the club Sunday night as he’ll soon be heading to Taiwan to fill the same position for Team Netherlands. The Netherlands is managed by Rockies hitting coach Hensley Meulens, the Yankees' assistant hitting coach last season, who asked Harkey at the end of last year to be on his staff. Bench coach Carlos Mendoza will serve in the same capacity for Team Venezuela, which is managed by Astros first-base coach Omar Lopez, but with that team training in Miami, he won’t leave until March 6, when players report to their teams.
Three Yankees players are slated to participate in the WBC — catcher Kyle Higashioka (Team USA), Torres (Venezuela) and reliever Jonathan Loaisiga (Nicaragua).
Righty Greg Weissert, the product of Bay Shore High School and Fordham University who made his big-league debut last season and has a good chance of nailing down a bullpen spot out of camp, walked one and struck out one in a scoreless fourth inning . . . Rookie Oswaldo Cabrera, who moved to Orlando in the offseason and made frequent drives to the club’s minor-league complex in Tampa for winter workouts — where he did outfield work at times with the likes of Aaron Judge and Harrison Bader — started in leftfield Saturday and went 1-for-2 with two RBIs. Cabrera, who came up in the organization as a standout infielder, should make the roster as a utilityman.