TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Masahiro Tanaka, among the most unhurried starters in the major leagues, does not support a 20-second pitch clock.
“As players, we have to go by the rules so we do that,” the New York Yankees right-hander said through a translator Tuesday. “With that said, for me personally, I’m not in favor of that.”
Tanaka was ranked 76th out of 78 pitchers throwing 150 or more innings last year at 26.1 seconds between pitches, according to Fangraphs. He was ahead of only Houston’s Justin Verlander (26.3) and Boston’s David Price (26.7).
After pushing for an agreement with players last season, baseball management decided on its own to experiment with pitch clocks during spring training this year. Owners have the right to implement them for the regular season but would prefer to reach an agreement with the union.
Under the phase-in designed to allow teams to get used to the concept without fear of penalty, pitchers and batters who take too long are being warned to hurry up.
“That time lag between a pitch, you’re thinking about what to throw next, what the next pitch is going to be and I think the hitters are thinking about what’s coming,” Tanaka said. “There’s that certain time that makes baseball fun.”
A pitch clock has been used in some minor leagues since 2015. MLB’s plan envisions when fully phased in there will be ball penalties against pitchers for violations.
Tanaka’s first time on the mound with the clock was postponed Tuesday when the Yankees’ home game against the Philadelphia Phillies was canceled due to a steady rain.
“You really don’t think about it,” Tanaka said of the clock. “Obviously we weren’t able to get a game in today. If we did have a game today, I’ll be out there and the time clock would be visible so that would kind of give me a sense of what it’s like to pitch under those rules.”
Since taking over as commissioner, Rob Manfred has made speeding up games one of his primary goals. Last year, the average length of a nine-inning game fell to 3 hours — five minutes shorter than the previous season, but still 36 minutes longer than a typical game in 1976.
Tanaka, 12-6 with 3.75 ERA in 27 starts last season, did have a two-inning simulated game without hitters in a covered bullpen.
LHP CC Sabathia (heart stent and knee) remains on target to start throwing bullpen sessions around March 1. “He is doing well,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He’s getting the strength back. His arm feels great. The momentum is going the right way.” ... C Gary Sanchez (left shoulder surgery) is expected to make his spring training debut Friday night. .
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