Scherzer tests pitch clock limits, gets quick-pitch balk

Max Scherzer has theorized that baseball's new pitch clock will allow pitchers to dictate the pace of games.

In the eyes of one umpire, he raced too fast even for the pitch timer Friday.

Scherzer tested the boundaries of baseball's novel pace-of-play rules during his second spring training start, trying several unusual tactics to get Washington Nationals hitters off their game Friday. At one point, he started throwing a pitch to Victor Robles the moment plate umpire Jeremy Riggs reset the clock, and Riggs called him for a balk.

“He calls time, I come set, I get the green light," Scherzer said. "I thought that was a clean pitch. He said no. We have to figure out where the limit is.”

Major League Baseball's pitch clock has left pitchers and hitters learning a whole new pace to the game this spring. Players have 30 seconds to resume play between batters. Between pitches, pitchers have 15 seconds to deliver the ball with nobody on and 20 seconds if there's a baserunner.

Batters must be in the box and alert to the pitcher with at least eight seconds on the clock, and they only get one timeout per plate appearance.

Some are adjusting and taking advantage of the rules faster than others. New York Yankees reliever Wandy Peralta rushed through an at-bat so effectively Thursday that he completed a three-pitch strikeout in only 20 seconds.

Scherzer experimented with a few strategies Friday.

With two on and two strikes against the Riley Adams in the third inning, Scherzer froze in the set position and let the pitch clock tick down to seven before Adams called timeout.

On the next pitch, Scherzer became set as the 20-second clock started. Adams finally stepped into the box with the clock at 11 seconds, and Scherzer immediately delivered, getting a swinging strike on a 96 mph fastball.

“You can tell they were expecting me to work quick today, and you can make that work to your advantage by speeding up and slowing down the game,” Scherzer said.

Not all the experiments worked. Not only was Scherzer called for a balk, but he also had an inning-ending double play overturned when umpires ruled he had narrowly let the pitch clock run out before starting his delivery.

"Max and a lot of veteran pitchers and pitchers in general are going to use this time to test some things and make some adjustments," Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “Everybody up here is looking for a competitive edge — hitters, pitchers, catchers — and it's a good time to be testing those things.”

JAYME'S BUYING

Jayme Hoskins already is known for picking up the beer tab for fans in Philadelphia.

Now the wife of Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins wants to make sure some fans at spring training have free snacks.

Jayme Hoskins became the heroine of Phillies fans when she picked up the beer tab for a bunch of them in her vicinity at Citizens Bank Park during last year's World Series.

On Friday, before the Phillies’ game against the Detroit Tigers at BayCare Ballpark, she hid 15 envelopes with gift cards good for snacks sold by concessionaires around the ballpark.

She blasted it out on social media and asked the finders to tag her.

One social media commenter suggested Jayme has become more popular than the Phillies players.

GUERRERO OUT

Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. left Friday’s game with knee discomfort.

Guerrero was seen walking toward the clubhouse with an athletic trainer in the second inning and was replaced defensively by Rainer Nunez to start the third.

He had an RBI single during the first inning in his lone at-bat in the game against Tampa Bay.

The slugger hit .274 with 32 homers and 97 RBIs in 160 games last year.

Guerrero is on the Dominican Republic roster for this month’s World Baseball Classic.

WINDY DAY

Toronto right-hander Kevin Gausman was blown off balance on the mound by gusty winds in his first spring training start against Tampa Bay.

“I worked hard in the offseason to put on some weight, but that wind just knocked me right off,” Gausman said with a smile. “I got lucky that the (pitch) clock manager actually kind of noticed it and re-started it because it was at six seconds.”

Gausman added that situations like that are among things that may need to be addressed by MLB.

“When it’s raining, we don’t have time to sit on the back of the mound and wipe off our spikes after every pitch where we used to be able to,” Gausman said. “Those are little things that are going to come up as spring training goes on, and the more us players that we can bring these things up to them the better off we can make the new changes as a whole.”

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Mitch Stacy, The Associated Press