Steve Cishek’s ninth-inning routine includes sprinting out from the bullpen, fixing the dirt in front of the mound, a stare down to the catcher, and his usual set of up to eight warm-up pitches.
When he’s done with that, the Marlins closer reaches for a piece of scripture he tucks away in his back pocket and reads it. After that, Cishek said that’s when he’s ready to step on the mound and pitch.
Friday, as the Marlins opened spring training, that routine — and exactly how long it takes — was on Cishek’s mind. Major League Baseball, in its quest to speed up the pace of games, announced a couple new initiatives and replay modifications Friday.
The new component that will affect pitchers: timers that will measure non-game action and break time between innings and pitching changes. Immediately after the third out of each half-inning, a timer will count down from 2 minutes 25 seconds for locally televised games and from 2:45 for nationally televised games.
Pitchers will be permitted to throw as many warm-up pitches as they wish prior to the point 30 seconds remain on the clock. Ten seconds later, batters will be encouraged to enter the box. At that point, when the broadcast returns from commercial break, the pitcher will be expected to begin his motion before the clock hits zero, otherwise they will be warned and then fined.
“It’s good obviously as a spectator to have a quicker game so you’re not sitting there for four hours,” Cishek said. “My concern is how much are we actually going to shave off? I know for me in the ninth inning I like to vary my times even if no one is on base. So I’m concerned I might run over time.”
In addition to the clock, baseball plans to enforce the batter’s-box rule, which requires all hitters to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box, and managers will no longer be required to leave the dugout to challenge a call.
But it’s the time between innings and pitching changes that was on the minds of most Friday. Cishek said he wants everything he does to be timed this spring. Baseball said the rules will be enforced beginning with spring training, but there will be no fines until after the first full month of the season.
“The inning breaks, that’s going to be the biggest one,” pitcher Tom Koehler said. “We’ll kind of have to gauge how long it takes to do what we do. Some guys are going to have to figure out if they can walk out there or sprint out there.”