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MLB union says 2-second cut to pitch clock too soon for some pitchers

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Major League Baseball’s move to slice two seconds off the pitch clock with runners on base is too much, too soon, according to players’ association head Tony Clark.

The clock is shortening to 18 seconds from 20 with men on base and will stay at 15 seconds with no one on.

“That’s a conversation that should have warranted a much longer dialogue than what we had,” Clark said Saturday. “We voiced those concerns, players voiced those concerns, and yet, the push through of the change to the pitch clock still happened.”

MLB introduced a new rules package last season — including a pitch clock and bigger bases — that cut average game times by 24 minutes to 2 hours, 40 minutes, the quickest games have been played since 1984. The clock, adopted over the objection of player representatives on the competition committee, was considered a huge success and the sport drew more than 70 million fans to ballparks for the first time since 2017.

“We just had the biggest adjustment this league has ever seen in regards to length of game and how the game was affected, by including a clock,” Clark said. “Rather than give us another year to adjust and adapt to it, why are we adjusting again, and what are the ramifications going to be?”

Clark’s main concern is that pitchers have less time between pitches to recover, particularly when maximum effort and pitch velocity are so important.

“When fatigue happens, you’re more susceptible to injury,” Clark said. “We’re seeing a lot of injuries and we’re seeing them in a way that simply can’t remove the question of whether or not shortening recovery time is in anyone’s best interest.”

FREE AGENT MARKET

There are several high-profile free agents who remain on the market, including two-time Cy Young winner Blake Snell, former MVP Cody Bellinger, six-time All-Star J.D. Martinez and four-time Gold Glove third baseman Matt Chapman.

“If teams want to improve, there are a lot of players across the spectrum who can help teams finish as the last team,” Clark said.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said this month the league would prefer a free-agent signing period, ideally in December, that ended with a deadline. An MLB proposal in 2019 was dismissed by the union.

Clark, who from 1995 to 2009, prefers the flexibility of the current rules, which place no deadlines on reaching free-agent deals.

“A deadline, in all likelihood, is going to do more damage to players in those conversations than the other way around,” Clark said.

A’S SITUATION

The Oakland Athletics still don’t know where they’re playing after the 2024 season as the franchise prepares for a planned move to Las Vegas.

The A’s have met with Oakland city officials about extending the club’s lease beyond 2024, but nothing is certain. A new ballpark in Las Vegas is not expected to be ready until 2028.

Options included staying at the Coliseum, or playing in another city, like Sacramento of Salt Lake City.

“I’ve been pretty consistent in that it needed to happen yesterday,” Clark said. “The players on those teams, the fans in that market, and potentially in other markets, the longer this conversation goes on, the more detrimental in the grand scheme of things.

“Whether it’s Sacramento, whether it’s Salt Lake, whether it’s somewhere else, decisions need to be made sooner rather than later.”

2028 OLYMPICS

Clark said many MLB players are excited about the prospect of playing in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, but that the “devil is in the proverbial details” when it comes to making it happen.

Several stars — including Bryce Harper — have expressed a desire to play in Los Angeles.

“There’s a lot of dialogue there,” Clark said. “We haven’t received anything formally. We’ve had conversations with some folks. But the players that we’ve heard from — at least as of right now — are intrigued by the idea.”

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AP MLB: /hub/mlb

Sports Reporter based in Phoenix