Marcus Stroman became the first Cubs pitcher to work within the confines of the new pitch clock when he started Saturday’s Cactus League opener, and he seemed unfazed by the changes. For those who may need a refresher on the rules, pitchers have 15 seconds to deliver the ball with the bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on. Hitters must be engaged in the box with 8 seconds left and are limited to one timeout per plate appearance. Violation of those rules will result in either an automatic ball or strike, several of which have been called in the early going.
I hadn’t thought about how Cubs pitchers would be impacted by the new rules prior to being put on the spot by 670 The Score’s Steve Rosenbloom immediately ahead of Saturday’s game, but my first thought was that Stroman would benefit. He’s a quick worker who seems to enjoy playing mental games with hitters, plus the accelerated pace could have more batters in swing mode. That’s great for a guy whose “sanker gon’ be sankin'” this season.
Though there wasn’t much to take away from the righty’s abbreviated spring debut, he explained later that he’s got a little something up his sleeve for later in the spring or perhaps the regular season. He was understandably coy about exactly what that was, but I’d guess it has something to do with altering his timing and generally maintaining a quicker pace than the clock already mandates in order to keep opponents off balance.
“Yeah I got some things coming,” Stroman told reporters. “I’m not gonna show any of them. But yeah, I’m definitely gonna manipulate it and use it to my favor for sure. There’s some things we were talking right when I came out of the game today.
“If they’re gonna make us rush, I’m gonna find a way to kinda be me out there, no matter what. Something that I truly don’t even worry about. I feel like you just have to go out there and attack and the whole pitching clock thing is kind of in the back of your head.”
The clock is most definitely not in the back of viewers’ minds because it’s currently being included in the score bug, which some find annoying or even anxiety-inducing. My hope is that this is simply a matter of allowing folks to get used to the process and that the timer will be phased out of the live view, though we see the shot clock and play clock in basketball and football games. It’s really just a matter of getting used to it.
That’s true for the players as well, though Stroman is clearly hoping his strategy will at least extend the amount of time it takes for hitters to adjust. This is something to watch for in his subsequent spring starts, so let’s circle back in a few days to see if we spot any differences.