GLENDALE, Ariz. –
Imagine Clayton Kershaw on the mound in Game 7 of the World Series, gazing at his catcher at a crucial moment. And his catcher blinks…no sign at all.
That day could come very soon.
Major League Baseball is stepping up its experiment with an electronic communication channel for pitchers and catchers. After trying out the PitchCom system at Low-A West in the second half of last season, major league clubs are working on the technology during spring training.
If the development is widely welcomed, the system could be used in majors this year. But the current plan is to do it at Double-A level this summer.
“Very supportive. I think it speeds up the game,” said Tony La Russa, 77, manager of the Chicago White Sox’s Hall of Fame. “Decided, hopefully they’ll make it official. But our experience is a good one.”
With the PitchCom system, catchers wear a wristband with nine buttons to call pitch and position. There’s a receiver in the pitcher’s hat, and another in the catcher’s helmet. Multiple languages are available for the encoded channel.
No need for traditional signs – forget about wiggly fingers.
New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone even tried a bit of experimentation with the experiment. An hour before the game against Atlanta on Saturday, he told starting pitcher Luis Severino that they would try the system with catcher Kyle Higashioka.
“We threw it on Sevie at 12:15 before he went out. He played the game for it but we popped it on him, no problem. No problem and that’s it. It’s our first game to do that, so that’s a good thing. Hopefully it’s something we can do better,” Boone said.
Severino also looked fine hitting four innings with a ball on target.
As far as using it on a certain day in the regular season, “I want to keep playing to the best of my ability. But my first impression of it, I feel like we’re on to something. . I think it’s really good,” said Boone.
Bruce Zimmermann, the Baltimore Orioles pitcher, agrees.
“It’s not as awkward as I thought it would be, and actually I think it’s really cool because you can speed up the game to your liking,” says Zimmermann.
“I don’t think it’s going to be too much of a learning curve for a lot of guys. I was against it at first until I actually used it,” he said.
Orioles catcher Anthony Bemboom also gave a positive report, with some concerns.
“It’s just a little cumbersome on your wristband. It doesn’t happen the day before, but the ball can hit the wristband on a block. It can bounce one way or another,” he says. speak.
“There were a couple of times when I hit it on my shin guard to give the regular sign that nobody was on. … It said ‘knuckleball’ and he was throwing a quick ball, but other than that. , everything’s fine.”
The PitchCom system is one of the potential changes that MLB is exploring this year. There will be larger bases, a pitch meter, and an all-season junior select limit per affiliate. Defensive teleportation has been banned for each of Class A and Double-A levels.
The college baseball team used an electronic system to call the field. With Match Day Signals, calls are relayed from the slide to a receiver on the thrower’s wrist.
Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said: “Giving off the college break, I think it’s a good thing for everyone, especially the consumer, and especially when it’s 25 degrees. degrees Celsius on a Friday night in Nashville.
MLB also wants to increase the speed of play. The average time of a nine inning game in the 2021 regular season is a record 3 hours 10 minutes 7 seconds, up from 3:07:46 for the 2020 pandemic shortening season and 3:05:35 in 2020. 2019.
When players are on base, especially in the second minute, the game can bog down as pitchers and catchers switch signs to try to shield calls from their opponents. With an electronic channel, that won’t be a problem anymore.
“I like it. It’s great. … It doesn’t give the big guys a chance to know what’s going to happen,” said White Sox right-hand man Dylan Cease.
The system could also eliminate symbol theft altogether, a major prerogative of the MLB after the Houston Astros’ 2017 championship was marred by a symbol-stealing scandal.
The MLB investigation found Houston used a video feed from a midfield camera to view and decode opposing player markings during home games. The player smashes the trash can to signal to the fighter what is to come, believing it will improve the hitter’s hit rate.
Cease said sign theft has been a concern for him over the past few years, especially with the runner-up.
With PitchCom, “basically I just have to worry about what I’m doing about whether I’m giving anything away with a tip, as opposed to ‘Are they breaking the code?’ like it was war,” said Cease.
Any chance of using the system in this year’s majors could be impacted by spring training abbreviated after the 99-day course. Teams did not have as much time to play as usual.
Chicago Cubs manager David Ross, a former major league player, said he wasn’t sure it would speed up the game.
“I think next spring’s training we’ll have a chance to work on it a little bit more and see what you do when you drop it,” he said. “How often do you use it? Do you use it when no one else uses it? Do you use it with a guy in the first place or just with a guy the second?
“Make sure everyone is comfortable, in tune and feels it’s the norm for them that’s important to me.”
AP Sports writer Eric Olson and AP freelance writers Rich Dubroff and Mark Didtler contributed to this report.