Willson Contreras struck out while adjusting his batting gloves


(Audacy) As part of a concerted effort to keep the game moving, MLB has employed a pitch clock throughout spring training, giving players a month to learn the ropes before the games start counting. Baseball’s faster pace will be an adjustment for all involved, though pitchers have benefited most early on by working quickly to keep opposing hitters off balance. That learning curve was never more evident than in in a Grapefruit League game in Jupiter on Monday, when new Cardinals catcher Willson Contreras was rung up by home-plate umpire Reed Basner for going over his allotted eight seconds to get set.

Contreras isn’t the first player to get burned by the dreaded eight-second rule, though his strikeout, albeit in the relatively low-stakes environment of an exhibition game, should serve as a word of warning to fidgety hitters, who no longer have the luxury of adjusting their gloves in the middle of an at-bat. These growing pains are to be expected, though data shows that players are already adapting to baseball’s new, faster reality, with violations cut almost in half since the pitch clock was first implemented in February.

Of course, nuance is needed with MLB free to abandon whatever rules aren’t working. The league’s competition committee recently acknowledged we could see tweaks prior to Opening Day next week with members of the Players Association advocating for, among other proposed changes, relaxing enforcement of the eight-second rule (particularly after foul balls) and granting pitchers longer than the current 15 seconds allotted with bases empty. Outliers will always exist, though outside of a few hiccups, the early returns on MLB’s pace-of-play initiative have been promising, with credit to commissioner Rob Manfred for his commitment to improving a struggling sport in need of a long overdue facelift.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Jim Rassol/USA Today Sports