SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Giants players walk onto the main field at Scottsdale Stadium every morning, they see the number 15 on the scoreboard in giant white letters with a black background. It's impossible to miss, and it's sending a constant message.
The Pitch Clock Era is here, and it will be an adjustment for every MLB player.
When MLB put the new rules in ahead of the 2023 season, it seemed there were some who wouldn't have to change too much, with Alex Wood being one of the best examples. The veteran left-hander has always been quick on the mound. He's running out there to get loose before the previous half-inning's outfielders have even approached the dugout, and he goes through his warmup pitches and innings at a frenetic pace.
But with an actual clock behind him for the first time, even Wood found that the game speeds up on you. Asked what advice he would have for fellow pitchers, Wood smiled and shook his head.
"I threw my first 'pen and they had the clock rolling and it is fast. It is fast, man," Wood said. "I'm pretty efficient, but when I was throwing my pitches in the bullpen I was just kind of standing down where I would finish and then catching the ball and going back up, and you get back up (on the rubber) and you're like, 'Holy crap, there's only nine seconds left.' It's fast.
"It's going to be a problem for some people, for sure. It's going to be an interesting first few weeks of spring training and games."
On the surface, the Giants would seem to be better prepared than just about everyone else to make the adjustment. Wood ranked 25th in MLB in pace last season, but that didn't even put him in the top four on his own staff. Sam Long (second), John Brebbia (fifth), Logan Webb (ninth) and Jakob Junis (13th) all ranked among the league leaders.
The Giants and Cleveland Guardians (three) were the only teams with more than two players in the top 25 in the league in pitch tempo, which is no surprise.
Since Gabe Kapler and a new staff took over, they have preached three keys on the mound: Know your plan, pound the zone ... and push the pace. The motto is so important that it's printed on t-shirts that some young pitchers wear around camp.
"Nobody necessarily saw (the rule changes) coming, but we think of it more as a competitive advantage to put the hitter off-balance," Kapler said. "That stems from a lot of our baseball coaches that have been position players, and we talk about it. You hate it, you hate it as a hitter to feel like the pitcher is right on top of you and you couldn't catch your breath and think through things and before you knew it the at-bat was over. It's actually very intuitive.
"I think there are ways to kind of track and log it for the defense, as well. I think defenses stay in the game more when the pitcher is working fast. What I can say is the flip side is awful. When the pace of game really slows down because the pitcher on the mound looks like he just doesn't have confidence to deliver the next pitch, it just kind of like sucks the air out of the defenders."
Pitchers will have no choice this season. They get 15 seconds to deliver a pitch with nobody on and 20 seconds when there's a runner on base, with two disengagements (a step-off or pickoff attempt) allowed per batter and one timeout given to each hitter. Per Major League Baseball, the pitch clock made minor league games 25 minutes shorter in 2022.
The Giants have plenty of young players in camp who already have experienced it, but to get the others up to speed, they have pitch clocks in the bullpens and two on the field for every live BP session. During the regular season, the plan is to have one on each dugout rail (at Oracle Park it will be in front of Kapler's usual spot in the dugout), two on the batter's eye, and one in the seats that will be visible to fielders.
Teams are doing all they can this spring to adjust, but it will be an ongoing process. The Giants know they're going to have questions pop up once the regular season starts, and they also know there will be unintended consequences that MLB will have to deal with on the fly.
Wood pointed out that the majority of pitchers like to check every new baseball they get, but they won't have much time to rub a ball up this season. He also guessed that some pitchers are going to quickly learn how to "weaponize the clock" since hitters only get one timeout.
"You better believe there are going to be a lot of guys that are ready to throw their pitch at eight seconds," he said. "And a lot of (hitters) are going to have no choice but to call their timeout or just take the pitch."
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Hitters will adjust, and then pitchers will, as well. That will be one of the biggest storylines of the season and the Giants are trying to get ahead of it. But there's only so much deep thinking you can do.
"There's no advice. You've just got to get it and go," Wood said. "It's going to help pace of play, that's for damn sure. But it's going to be an adjustment for a lot of people."