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Ausmus applauds steps to speed up game

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers pitchers and catchers stretch Friday at spring training in Lakeland, Florida.

Lakeland, Fla. – Brad Ausmus called it a "step in the right direction," if only a small step.

Major League Baseball, in an attempt to quicken the pace of games, will institute three changes this season.

Managers will remain in the dugout during replay challenges, pitchers will be ready to pitch immediately after TV commercial breaks and hitters will be required to keep at least one foot in the batter's box during at-bats.

"Without disrupting the game, we should do what we can to speed up the game," Ausmus said. "It has gotten a little long."

Ausmus was never fond of walking out toward the umpires to stall for time while a play was being reviewed to determine if a challenge was warranted. So that change won't impact him at all.

"You still will have a little bit of time (to decide whether to challenge)," he said. "You signal the umpire, 'Hold on, give us a second,' without having to go out there and feign conversation. It's just a matter of avoiding the time of the stroll out and the stroll back."

The batter staying in the box could be a little trickier, Ausmus said, especially with veteran hitters.

"It's going to be difficult to do at the Major League level," he said. "From my understanding there's not going to be a penalty. This is something that needs to be done at the minor league level over the course of a number of years. As these players come up it's ingrained in these players to stay in the box.

"That's the best way to do it."

Hitters who disobey will be warned and repeated offenders will be fined as much as $500 per offense.

As for the pitchers being ready to throw the instant the commercial breaks are over, MLB game operators will clock between innings — 2:45 for national games and 2:25 for local telecasts. Two timers — on or near the scoreboard and another behind home plate — will be used in every ballpark. Hitters are being told to get into the box with no fewer than 20 seconds left on the clock.

"The players believe that enforcing the rules that currently exist regarding between inning breaks and plate appearances is the best way to address the issue of pace of play," MLBPA executive director and former Tiger Tony Clark said in a statement. "We're confident that (these) announcements will have a positive impact on the pace of the game without jeopardizing the integrity of the competition."

The league discussed putting a clock on the amount of time pitchers have between pitches but opted not to implement that at this time.

"I don't know if that's inevitable or not," Ausmus said. "I am assuming the players union will have to OK it and that's where I think the sticking point's going to be. Baseball has always been known as a game without a clock — no quarters, periods or time limits. (Putting in a pitch clock) would be a radical change to the game.

"Maybe it gets approved by the league and the players association, but I just have a feeling pitchers aren't going to be ecstatic about it and pitchers make up a good portion of the players association."

The average time of games increased to three hours and two minutes last year.

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky