Major League Baseball is concerned about pace of play again, and some of the people behind the problem are your Minnesota Twins.
The Twins pitching staff has been battered. There have been long innings, extra pitches thrown, visits to the mound and pitching changes. Tuesday in Detroit, the Twins needed four pitchers to get through the seventh inning alone.
As a result, games are longer. Friday, the league office reported that the average Twins game is 3 hours, 3 minutes and 19 seconds. That’s 23rd in the majors and nearly a whopping 10 minutes longer than last year, when they were ninth-fastest at 2:53.31. The Twins’ increase from last year to now is the fourth-biggest leap in baseball.
But it’s a leaguewide problem. ESPN’s Jayson Stark wrote last week that the average time of games is up 7 minutes from the same point last season, from around 2 hours, 53 minutes to just over 3 hours.
He pointed out that pitches per game were up, strikeouts were up and walks were up. And all the extra pitching is a big factor in games being longer. Stark also pointed out that batters are taking their time again between pitches, stepping out of the batter’s box while umpires do nothing about it.
Pitchers are guilty too. There was time to take bathroom breaks between some of Mike Pelfrey’s pitches for the Tigers on Tuesday.
Despite instant replay reviews being up 35 percent from the same point last season, Stark didn’t believe the replay system is the main culprit. But replay might need to be looked at. For example:
Eddie Rosario grounded into a double play in the sixth inning Tuesday. Brian Dozier tried to avoid being tagged between first and second. Ian Kinsler swiped at Dozier then threw to Miguel Cabrera at first. And Cabrera threw back to second to get Dozier because he wasn’t sure Kinsler tagged him.
Twins manager Paul Molitor immediately stepped out of the dugout — a signal that he was contemplating a challenge. He waited to be told by video director Sean Harlin, who is sequestered in the clubhouse, what to challenge.
Harlin checked a mind-boggling three plays — Kinsler’s tag on Dozier, Cabrera’s foot on the first base bag and shortstop Jose Iglesias’ tag on Dozier at second. It took long enough for home plate umpire Jeff Nelson — St. Paul’s own — eventually walked over to the Twins dugout to check on Harlin’s checking.
The Twins decided not to challenge any of the plays.
What’s troubling are the awkward stretches of silence when teams are standing around, waiting to see if a play will be challenged. If replay requests are up, there has to be more times when everything stops and everyone is waiting for a team to make a decision. And when the decision is no, that’s time lost.
This isn’t a suggestion to put the video coordinator on a clock as well — but the process needs to be looked at.
Mike Clevinger almost ruined his major league debut Wednesday.
The Cleveland pitcher was so nervous before the game that he spent 30 minutes on a knee in the clubhouse, revisiting his lunch. When he was empty, Clevinger had just 15 minutes before game time. Good thing he was pitching in the bottom of the inning.
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Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas, who had been out since May 5 because of a broken left thumb, was activated from the disabled list Saturday, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against the White Sox. That means he should be at third Monday when the Twins and Royals play at Target Field.
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New Detroit outfielder Cameron Maybin was activated from the disabled list in time for the series against the Twins last week and was 5-for-9 with an RBI, run scored, two walks and three stolen bases.
He’s now hitting .647 through five games. “I’m happy to see him back and healthy,’’ said Twins righthander Ricky Nolasco, his good friend. “He’s off to a good start, obviously. I don’t want it against us but I’m always pulling for Cam.”
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White Sox lefthander Chris Sale (above) cannot be stopped right now. He rolled to 9-0 on Thursday with a complete game victory over Houston. He’s the first White Sox pitcher to win his first nine starts since Ed Cicotte won his first 12 starts in 1919, when the team went on to lose (throw?) the World Series.
The 3-2 pitch
Three observations …
• Even if umpires didn’t eject Texas pitcher Matt Bush for hitting Toronto’s Jose Bautista last week, a move that eventually led to a melee, he should have received more than just a fine. No one believes Bush did it unintentionally.
• Good luck to former Twin Joe Nathan, who signed with the Cubs as he recovers from a second Tommy John surgery and also has had reconstructive shoulder surgery. It would be quite a comeback if he pulls it off at age 41.
• It should be no surprise that the Yankees are struggling. They are showing their age at a few positions and GM Brian Cashman — shockingly — didn’t sign a major league free agent during the offseason.
… and two predictions
• Chris Tillman’s season is more than just a hot start. The Baltimore righthander will be in the running for AL Cy Young Award consideration at the end of the year.
• Nice run by the Phillies after they lost 99 games in 2015, but they will be in fourth place in the NL East by June 21, when they come to Target Field to play the Twins.