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Cubs have mixed reactions in first game with new MLB rules

1 year agoTony Andracki

MESA, Ariz. — The Cubs had their first taste of the new MLB rules Saturday afternoon and the results were mixed.

Yan Gomes liked it. Ian Happ admitted it felt quicker. Dansby Swanson thinks there are some things that can be fine-tuned. Marcus Stroman is already figuring out ways to use the rules to his advantage on the mound.

In general, the reactions weren’t too strong. The Cubs understand they’re playing by the same set of circumstances as everybody in baseball — and that these rules aren’t going anywhere so everybody better get used to them.

Happ came up in the bottom of the 1st inning of Saturday’s Cactus League opener at Sloan Park and was immediately struck by the pace of his at-bat with the new pitch clock. He ultimately drew a walk, but admitted he felt a bit rushed as he talked through the plate appearance the following inning when he was mic’d up with Jon “Boog” Sciambi and Jim Deshaies on the Marquee Sports Network broadcast.

“Yeah, it felt a little quicker,” Happ said. “You’re just aware there’s a timer. I think that’s the biggest difference. You’re aware there’s a penalty. It’s like, you’re up there and it’s probably similar to the normal cadence of what I’d normally do but because there’s a timer, you don’t take that extra second to strap a batting glove.”

In the middle of the Happ interview, we actually got a perfect example of the rules at play. There was a violation as Giants third baseman Casey Schmitt wasn’t set in time and thus began the at-bat down 0-1 in the count:

Gomes — who started Saturday’s game for the Cubs — was fine with his first experience with the new pitch clock rule.

“I actually enjoyed it,” he said. “It keeps the tempo going and I feel like sometimes we were going a little faster than normal.”

Swanson didn’t share the same sentiment.

“I’m hoping it’s not the end-all, be-all,” the new Cubs shortstop said. “I think that there’s definitely some tweaks that can be made but it’s gonna be a change for everybody. We can sit here and complain about them or whatever but at the end of the day, we’re just gonna have to embrace it and be able to put together our best performance because it doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.”

[MORE: Cubs Spring Training Notebook: An Opening Day snapshot, a defensive display and Suzuki’s injury]

Swanson felt like the 15-second pitch clock when bases are empty might be a bit too quick. He suggested an 18-second clock instead, but also admitted he’s good with an overall quicker game.

“With every rule that comes about, there’s certain things you can do to exploit that rule,” Swanson said. “Sometimes it can be that rules create more issues but I think we’re just gonna have to see how it plays out.”

In terms of exploiting the rule, Stroman is right there already. The veteran starting pitcher has stated all spring the pitch clock won’t affect what he does and he proved it on Saturday in his first spring outing.

“Yeah I got some things coming,” Stroman said. “I’m not gonna show any of them. But yeah, I’m definitely gonna manipulate it and use it to my favor for sure. There’s some things we were talking right when I came out of the game today.

“If they’re gonna make us rush, I’m gonna find a way to kinda be me out there, no matter what. Something that I truly don’t even worry about. I feel like you just have to go out there and attack and the whole pitching clock thing is kind of in the back of your head.”

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