CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — For the 2022 season, Minor League Baseball will be implementing rules at certain levels to test their viability and the possibility of them working at the major league level.
At the AA level, a few rules will be implemented to help quicken the pace of the game, and hopefully, improve fan enjoyment of the game.
The rules that will affect Hooks games are: a shortened pitch clock, limited pick-off attempts, restrictions on defensive positioning and slightly larger bases.
The shortened pitch clock will require pitchers to pitch to the batter within 14 seconds, the hitter must be in the batter’s box ready to hit with nine seconds remaining on the timer.
The time will increase to 18 seconds with a runner on base.
Both pitchers and hitters say this new clock will take some adjusting.
“Catcher will present a sign, you don’t agree, you shake, he presents another sign, you shake,” said Hooks pitcher Michael Horrell. “The seconds add up, and it’s going to be interesting to see how everybody adapts to it early on.”
“After a swing, you want to step out, evaluate, fix your batting gloves, or whatever,” said shortstop Grae Kessinger. “With the pitch clock, you don’t really have as much time to do that.”
Horrell said the pitch clock change has the biggest chance to affect pitchers when runners are on base. Horell is already accustomed to a fast rhythm, so he stated that the pitch clock won't affect him too much.
But there are times when he does fall behind in the count, he said, "That’s where you kind of have to restrategize, go about refocusing, clearing your mind, and resetting.”
When a runner is on base, pitchers will be limited to two pick-off attempts or step-offs per plate appearance; any more will function as a balk, giving the runner a free base.
“It will probably open the door for more possibilities, once people adjust to how the rule works,” Kessinger said. “I’m sure pitchers will adjust too, to be able to hold the run game. It will be a learning curve for everyone.”
Hooks manager ,Gregorio Petit, said it will take some time to get used to these new rules, and he will have to meet with umpires to clarify exactly how rules will be enforced.
“I’m going to meet with them to make sure to confirm what we’re doing is right or wrong,” he said.
One of the most debated rules in Major League Baseball is the infield shift, where teams take advantage of a hitter’s tendency to hit the ball to a certain side of the field, and stack that side of the infield.
The new rule will require teams to have a minimum of two fielders on each side of second base, with both feet on the infield grass. Both Horrell and Kessinger are in favor of the rule change.
“We’re going to like it as a hitter because they’re not going to be playing into your percentages as much,” Kessinger said.
“If you line the ball up the middle, I’m fine with that being a hit, if you hit a weak ground ball to the six-hole, I’m going to probably want that to be an out,” Horrell said.
Petit said the team will still shift its infielders if necessary, but will have to be restricted in how much they can with the new rule.
“At the end of the day, we’re still going to shift, without passing the middle line,” he said.
Finally, first, second, and third base will be increased from 15 inches to 18 inches this season, in an effort to reduce injuries to players.