Padres farmhands getting at look at robo umps, pitch clocks in El Paso

Jeff Sanders, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Baseball

The confidence Trent Grisham has in his strike-zone judgment is likely why his career on-base percentage is nearly 100 points above his batting average ... and also why he's been among the league leaders in called strike threes since becoming a regular with the Padres.

That said, the 25-year-old center fielder is actually of two minds as Major League Baseball barrels toward using so-called robo umps behind the plate.

"I like to think of myself as a little bit of a baseball purist," Grisham said. "I like the human element. I like the relationship with the umpires, talking to them about what's going on, what they see, the right and wrong of what I think a strike is and what they think a strike is.

"At the same time, it's hard to argue with knowing exactly what the strike zone is."

The topic was certainly of interest to Grisham after Nomar Mazara joined the big-league team earlier this month with first-hand experience with a number of rule experiments ongoing in the Pacific Coast League. Those range from the automated ball-and-strike system (ABS) to larger bases to the expanded use of a pitch clock that's shaved the average time of games at hitter-friendly El Paso from 3 hours, 13 minutes last year to 2:55 through the first 31 games at Southwest University Park.

With temperatures beginning to top 100 degrees this summer, that development alone appears to be a welcome endeavor by most, even by the offenders still getting used to 14 seconds between pitches with no one on base, 19 seconds with runners on and 30 seconds between hitters.


El Paso right-hander Jesse Scholtens, for instance, could only laugh in early May when 19 seconds ticked off the clock before he settled on a pitch with his catcher, resulting in one of five walks in the game.

"Initially, we were thinking, 'What the heck? There's a clock in baseball? What's going on?'" Scholtens said. "But as guys get used to it, they're starting to realize that you have a lot more time than it seems."

That's certainly been the case at times for catcher Brett Sullivan, who's taken to making sure his pitchers don't speed too quickly through the signs.

His point: Don't let the clock dictate the game.


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