Major League Baseball executive vice president Joe Torre stopped by Ed Smith Stadium on Saturday and visited behind the batting cage with Orioles manager Buck Showalter, the man he replaced when he became manager of the New York Yankees after the 1995 season.
Torre is making the rounds of the Florida spring training sites as teams get more accustomed to the sport's new rules and tools aimed at quickening the pace of games by shortening the gap between innings and getting hitters to remain in the batter's box between pitches.
"It's been good,'' Torre said after his conversation with Showalter. "I think we're all getting used to it. I think the one thing that's maybe been a little misunderstood is, because (the new time clocks) count down to zero, pitchers and a lot of players have been waiting until it gets close to zero, so I've been reminding managers and we sent out something the other day to remind them that when the hitter's in the box and they're ready to go, go."
There was some public muttering about the new plan this spring, but Torre said the fact that the new directives were agreed to in talks with the Major League Baseball Players Association have made it easier to get everyone to comply.
"The players association and baseball are all trying to do the same thing,'' Torre said. "It's not like we're forcing somebody. This is something we talked about with the association. We all want the same thing, but when you're dealing with so many people, sometimes it takes a little time."
Torre said he has not gotten any direct complaints from players or managers.
"Not to me, no, but there have been some players arguing with umpires, and the last thing we wanted to do was make the umpires the cops in this whole thing. We don't want that to be the case," he said. "The umpires are going to remind players about getting in. We had David Ortiz the other day, who's used to getting out of the box, and I'm sitting up in the booth, he stepped out of the box but then he stepped right back in. Because he thought about it."
Though some wary baseball traditionalists are sure to wonder whether the clocks installed at major league parks might eventually be used to speed up deliberate pitchers and hitters, Torre said the intent is not to do anything that disrupts the natural flow of the game.
"We've always monitored slow pitchers on our own,'' he said. "The one thing we don't want to do, we don't want to disrupt the game and we don't want to get into pitchers' heads or players' heads that we're trying to change what they do. What we're trying to do is just really eliminate a lot of the dead time, stuff that we can all get better at.
"That's the one thing about our game, other sports like basketball or football because of the size of guys and how quick they were, they've changed rules – things that you can do and you can't do. Our game has never done that. So, we've got to be careful not to disrupt the game and yet see if we can sort of just take the dead time out. It's more pace of play than pace of game."