Major League Baseball and the players union have agreed to scrap the obligatory four pitches previously required for an intentional walk and replace them with a simple hand signal that says, "On your way, buddy, nothing more to see here."
It's part of an overall MLB strategy to shorten games, but standing alone the new rule does little to help in that effort. It takes about a minute to throw those four pitches and there were only 932 intentional walks in baseball's nearly 2,500 regular-season games. So, on average, the new rule would save about 20 seconds per game.
There also are strategic implications to no longer requiring those four pitches, so the rule change was met with mixed reviews in the Orioles clubhouse Thursday.
"I don't particularly care," reliever and union rep Darren O'Day said. "I don't think it'll save that much time. But I have seen some games lost on intentional walks in the minor leagues and actually I saw one in the big leagues, too. So, there are going to be some pitchers who are strongly in favor of it. I don't mind doing it. I've had plenty of intentional walk practice so it doesn't bother me too much. We're trying to better the game all the time and make fans happy, so maybe it's a good thing."
Bullpenmate Brad Brach, however, was not particularly thrilled with the rule change.
"I'm not a big fan of it," Brach said. "I think that's like high school in my opinion. You see Little League teams doing that. You've seen middle school teams doing that. You see high school teams doing that. You're in the major leagues. If you can't throw four pitches outside the thing in a timely manner, I don't think you should be there.
"It's one of those things that kind of pauses the game for a second, gives you a second to re-evaluate what's going to happen in the game and honestly I don't think it's going to make much difference in the time of game."
Pitchers and catchers reported for duty on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. The Orioles begin the 2017 season at home against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 3.
Chris Tillman figures that -- as with a lot of issues impacting baseball -- the opinions of the players are going to be based on their roles.
"I think as a pitcher I don't think you'd mind," he said, "but as a position player or a runner on base, I feel they would care because there are a lot of times when a pitcher would miss and you'd advance and get a free swing. But as a pitcher, I don't mind it."
Outfielder Adam Jones didn't seem too worked up about it, or the time of game issue at large.
"I'm going to go with Russell Martin's idea," he said. "You hit a home run, you just go back to the dugout and save yourself, what, 35 seconds?"
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