NORTH PORT, Fla. – The importance for both pitchers and hitters to adapt to baseball’s new pitch timer rules became apparent Saturday afternoon, when an automatic strike ended a 6-6 tie between the Braves and Red Sox at CoolToday Park.
Plate umpire John Libka ended the game when he gave the automatic strike with the bases loaded, two outs and a full count against Braves second baseman Cal Conley. Libka judged that Conley was not ready to strike in time.
The rules, which will be introduced for the 2023 season, state that a batter must be in the box and warn the pitcher when eight seconds remain on the clock. The catcher must be standing or crouching in the penalty area behind home plate with nine seconds on the clock.
The batter must be ready himself – he is not dependent on the catcher crouching. Therefore, as a league official confirmed, the right decision was made.
“These are the kinds of things that tell you why we’re starting this now,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker. “You never know what could happen. That instance over there shows you what could happen.
Red Sox reliever Robert Kwiatkowski was poised on the mound when catcher Elih Marrero was slightly off the plate and adjusting something on his wrist when the pitch timer reached eight seconds. Libka threw his arms in the air and pointed to Conley, who was heading for first base, thinking an automatic ball four had been called.
“We talked about it,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “We looked at the clock and said, ‘Something is going to happen here.’ Actually, because Elih is going out, 3-2, two out, he tells the infielders, runners go, go to first. But he has to be back in place in nine seconds. And then that happened.”