Rafael Devers Makes History
The 2023 MLB season is underway, and with it came several new rule changes, including the pitch clock, which imposes a time limit on how long a pitcher can take to release the ball. While the rule is meant to speed up the pace of play, it has already caused controversy on the opening day of the season.
During the Boston Red Sox’s Opening Day game against the Orioles, third baseman Rafael Devers found himself on the wrong side of history, becoming the first player to strike out on an automatic strike call due to a violation of the new pitch clock rule.
What Is The Pitch Clock Rule?
The rule dictates that pitchers should throw the ball within 20 seconds of receiving the ball and that batters should be alert and ready to step into the batter’s box within 8 seconds of the clock winding down. The beauty of this is it keeps the game moving along, eliminating endless delays due to pitchers or batters taking too much time between pitches.
How it Happened
It happened in the eighth inning with the Red Sox trailing the Orioles, 10-4. Devers was the leadoff hitter and was trying to get the inning started for Boston by getting on base. But as the clock hit the eight-second mark, Devers was not yet set in the batter’s box, instead looking down at his cleats. Home plate umpire Lance Barksdale promptly made the call, and Devers was out on strikes without even swinging the bat.
Understanding The New Rule
The new rule states that batters must be ready for the pitch or “attentive to the pitcher” with eight seconds remaining on the timer. While it’s not entirely clear what that entails, it’s safe to say that if a batter isn’t set in the box, they’re not attentive to the pitcher. It’s also worth noting that umpires can override an automatic strike call if they believe the batter was not purposely violating the rule. However, that wasn’t the case with Devers.
Love it or hate it, the pitch clock is here to stay. It’s up to everyone involved, from players, coaches, umpires, and fans, to adjust to these changes until it becomes almost second nature to us. As for Devers, he’ll likely be more mindful of the timer in the future and use it as a learning experience. But for now, he’ll go down in history as the first player to strike out on an automatic strike call due to a violation of the pitch clock rule.