NEW YORK — Major League Baseball has clarified its new rules to allow umpires to delay the start of the pitch clock after big swings in which a hitter loses footing or when a pitcher covers first base, third or home, in addition to other clarifications announced Wednesday.
The commissioner’s office said in its memo that if a catcher ends an inning on base, at bat or on deck, an umpire may determine the catcher needs additional time and allow the pitcher another warm-up throw and the catcher to throw to second base.
The MLB also said whether a defensive team violated the new shift restrictions will be subject to a video review only involving the first player to touch a ball after a pitch.
The league also said that after a batter uses his one allowed timeout during a plate appearance, the clock shall start when the hitter indicates he is ready in addition to the previous specification when he returned to the batter’s box.
The clarifications ahead of March 30 openers were contained in a four-page memo sent by MLB senior vice president Michael Hill to managers, general managers and assistant general managers, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.
“They’re important in my mind because they’re responsive to things players said to us,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday night before Japan beat the United States 3-2 in the World Baseball Classic championship game.
Baseball’s 11-man competition committee, established in the labor agreement last March, adopted the pitch clock and shift limits last September over the opposition of the four players on the panel. MLB set the pitch clock at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners.
The average time of spring training games through Monday was down 25 minutes to 2 hours, 36 minutes. Violations per game were 1.03 during the past week, down from 2.03 during spring training’s first week, according to the memo.
Teams were told bat boys and girls in the visiting dugout will meet with the visiting club before each series to discuss the player preferences. MLB said it will monitor the bat boys and girls to determine whether they contribute to non-compliance with the pace of game procedures.
MLB said it will issue guidance to teams Friday on use of PitchCom by pitchers. Catchers were allowed to use the device to call pitches last season, and pitchers were allowed to experiment with it during spring training.
ASTROS: Jose Altuve had surgery on his broken right thumb, an injury that occurred in the World Baseball Classic and will significantly delay the second baseman’s 2023 debut.
The Astros announced that the 32-year-old Altuve had the procedure done in Houston and will stay there to begin his rehabilitation, with only one week left in spring training. The Astros will fly there on Sunday following their final Grapefruit League game in Florida, before playing a pair of exhibitions against their Triple-A team, the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, in Texas.
Altuve was hit by a pitch on Saturday while playing for Venezuela in the WBC. He might not be ready to return to the lineup until at least late May. The eight-time All-Star and 2017 American League MVP batted .300 with 103 runs, 28 homers and 18 steals for the World Series champion Astros last season. Mauricio Dubón and David Hensley are the leading candidates to fill in for Altuve at second base.
TV: Apple TV+ will begin its second season of “Friday Night Baseball” on April 7. The Chicago Cubs will host the Texas Rangers in a day game, followed by the San Diego Padres facing the Atlanta Braves.
Apple will carry doubleheaders over 25 weeks with no local blackout restrictions. In a change from last year, when there were doubleheaders on the East and West coasts, both games will be going on simultaneously most weeks.
Fans in 60 countries will be able to access the games, which were available in only 12 last season. An Apple TV+ subscription is required, unlike last season.
The biggest broadcast change fans will notice is a two-person booth instead of three. Wayne Randazzo will team with Dontrelle Willis for one of the crews with Alex Faust and Ryan Spilborghs pairing for the other. Heidi Watney and Tricia Whitaker will be field reporters.
ESPN: Roger Clemens will be an analyst for ESPN when the defending World Series champion Houston Astros host the Chicago White Sox on Opening Day.
Clemens made four appearances on last year’s KayRod Cast with Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez. He will be stepping in on March 30 for David Cone, who will be doing the New York Yankees opener against the San Francisco Giants on YES Network.

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