Long Island Ducks second baseman Daniel Murphy swings the bat...

Long Island Ducks second baseman Daniel Murphy swings the bat during batting practice on Ducks media day, Saturday, April 22, 2023 at Farfield Properties Ballpark in Central Islip. Credit: George A Faella

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a pitch clock.

Yes, the newest innovation taking baseball by storm has made it to Central Islip. And not a moment too soon.

The Atlantic League, which has been at the forefront of trying to improve pace of play since before it was in vogue everywhere, still finds itself in late-game pace binds, especially once bullpens are activated. The hope is that the clock alleviates many of those issues, just as it has in the majors.

“I’ve gone to a few Met games since I’ve been [on Long Island this year], and the players seem to love it because it speeds the game up,” Ducks manager Wally Backman said last week. “ . . . It’s going to be nice that you don’t have those four-hour games.”

The Ducks will open their season Friday night in High Point, North Carolina. The home opener is scheduled for May 2.

Enforcement of the clock will be relaxed through Memorial Day, with only the most egregious of violations being penalized, Ducks president and general manager Michael Pfaff said at the team’s annual Media Day news conference Saturday afternoon at Fairfield Properties Ballpark. After that, it’s game on.

The clock will operate the same as it does in the major leagues, with 15 seconds allotted with no one on base and 20 seconds with runners on. Batters must be set at eight seconds. The clock in left-centerfield at Fairfield Properties Ballpark is easily visible to fans and batters.

“The pitch clock was necessary,” Ducks first baseman and former Met Daniel Murphy told Newsday last week. “I was playing when the tempo of the game was slowed and we tried to make an adjustment [by] staying in the box. But as players, we were unable to do that. The fans have told us that it’s just not moving briskly enough.”

Before the 2019 season, the Atlantic League signed a deal with MLB that allows experimental rules to be tested in the one-time independent league. That deal expires at the end of the season and, according to Ducks owner/CEO Frank Boulton, a renewal of the agreement isn’t assured yet.

“We’ll give some thought whether we’ll continue to go on, because I think a lot has been done,” Boulton said. “I think it’s time to pump the brakes . . . We’ll probably do something again, but maybe a little more on our terms in the next five-year agreement.”

But while it still can, MLB has sent down more rule changes.

There will be a designated pinch runner, a player who is not otherwise in the lineup who can be subbed into the game at any time. The player who was pinch-run for may re-enter the game once.

Pitchers may disengage from the pitching rubber only once per at-bat. There also is the return of the double-hook DH rule, which causes teams to lose their designated hitter if the starting pitcher does not complete five innings.

More LI Ducks

Newsday LogoCovering LI news as it happensDigital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months