Mets' Max Scherzer loves MLB's new pace, and also manipulating pitch clock

New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer allowed four hits and three runs over six innings to beat the Miami Marlins on Thursday in Miami. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer allowed four hits and three runs over six innings to beat the Miami Marlins on Thursday in Miami. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI, March 31 (UPI) -- Max Scherzer says he's not a fan of MLB's new pitch clock, but that isn't stopping him from trying to manipulate it for an edge on hitters. The New York Mets ace has added tempo changes to his already lethal arsenal.

"I'm trying to give him the pitch right away so he can manipulate the clock," Mets catcher Omar Narvaez told UPI after a 5-3 win over the Miami Marlins on Thursday in Miami.


"Whatever he wants to do, I'm going to do it. As soon as i catch the ball, we set up a plan and are on the same page. I just catch it and will let him manipulate it."

The pitch timer was one of several alterations MLB made this off-season. Pitchers now have just 15 seconds to throw each pitch when bases are empty or the batter will receive a called ball. They are allowed 20 seconds to pitch when a runner is on base.


Hitters must have both feet in the batter's box before an outfield clock ticks down to 8 seconds, or they will receive a strike.

Scherzer toyed with the change in spring training, sometimes standing on the mound in a hold posture, with the ball in his glove as he stared at the batter.

On one occasion, the batter took a timeout to break up the tension and reset the clock. Scherzer then raised the ball up near his face as the batter prepared to step back in. Instead of waiting out his allotted time, the Mets pitcher rifled in a fastball for a strikeout.

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MLB later clarified that pitchers must wait for batters to be "reasonably set" in the box before pitch delivery, but Scherzer showed Thursday he still is mixing tempo into his bag of four-seam fastballs, sliders, curveballs and changeups.

"His pitch clock definitely messes with hitters," Marlins first baseman Garrett Cooper said. "These pitchers can use all 20 seconds if they want or go as fast as they want.

"It's something we are going to have to get used to, especially with someone like Scherzer, who messes with timing anyway he can. It's a battle."


Marlins manager Skip Schumaker, who considers Scherzer one of the best pitchers ever, said he paid attention to the three-time Cy Young Award winner's strategies in spring training.

He said he was curious to see how the Marlins would handle the ace's ploys. Cooper, who homered off Scherzer on Thursday, said the Marlins studied the pitch in the spring and knew he might try a quick pitch after a batter timeout.

"I think a lot of pitchers are trying to figure out how to take advantage of the rules," Schumaker said. "Max is an extremely bright guy trying to figure out how to take advantage of certain rules.

"Credit to MLB for kind of cleaning up some of those, but I think we will still see some some different things for Max, and from our pitchers, too."

Scherzer allowed four hits and three runs and tossed six strikeouts in six innings Thursday at loanDepot park. Marlins batters attempted to combat Scherzer's strategy by remaining in the box for nearly every pitch of his outing.

Scherzer used most of his allotted time to deliver the majority of his pitches, but mixed in quick breaking balls after stoic fastballs several times.


"I really love the way he is taking advantage of almost everything," Narvaez said. "He is really on top of everything. If something new happens, he is like 'yeah, I've got that. We both have a plan, study and do our homework."

MLB's new rules, which include larger bases and limited defensive shifts, in addition to the timed exchanges, led to nearly 30 minutes being shaved off game times in spring training. The 2-hour, 42-minute Mets and Marlins game was the seventh-longest MLB one on opening day.

The 2-hour, 14-minute Tampa Bay Rays-Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Guardians-Seattle Mariners games were the shortest of the day. Average MLB game lengths haven't been under the 2-hour, 15-minute mark since 1947.

Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara and Scherzer flew through the first half of Thursday's game, which lasted less than an hour. Scherzer's ability to execute, paired with the Marlins strategy to avoid leaving the batter's box, likely accelerated game flow.


"Everybody's playing at pace," Scherzer said. "The hitters are all standing in the box."

Despite his willingness to add the pitch clock strategy into his arsenal, Scherzer said he thinks umpires should be allowed to limit its usage once a quick pace of play is established -- instead of using balls and strikes to further discipline violators.

"I love the pace, but I don't like the clock," said Scherzer, who expressed similar sentiment during spring training. "I'll double down on that. I think the umpires should have discretion and turn the clock off."

Mets outfielder Mark Canha, who went 0 for 2 against Alcantara and 0 for 3 overall, might be one of the players most impacted by the pitch clock.

Canha led MLB batters last season for the most time taken between pitches, at 27.5 seconds. The eight-year veteran, who was not called for any violations Thursday, said the worst thing for a hitter is a feeling of being "rushed."

But Canha said having Scherzer as a teammate offers a closer insight into how pitchers might weaponize the clock.

"You definitely try to pay attention to everything, keep your ear to the ground and see what's going on with what the pitchers are doing," Canha said. "You need to be ready for whatever may come up. There is lot of creativity being used.


"It's a different game. So we have to figure out what what it's going to be."

Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil was the only player assessed with a clock violation on Thursday in Miami. He was given an automatic strike in the sixth inning. A total of 14 violations occurred in MLB's 15 opening day games, including three in the Baltimore Orioles-Boston Red Sox matchup.

Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers became the first player in history called out for a clock violation. Devers was down 1-2 in the count against Orioles relief pitcher Bryan Baker in the eighth inning of the Red Sox's 10-9 loss Thursday in Boston.

He then failed to get into his stance in time for the next offering, resulting in an automatic third strike.

The Marlins will host the Mets in the first of five MLB games scheduled for Friday night. The first pitch is scheduled for 6:40 EDT at loanDepot park.

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