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MLB could ditch proposed pitch clock, agrees to netting at all fields

| Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, 11:03 a.m.
In this July 14, 2017 file photo, fans watch through a net as the Mets' Jacob deGrom delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Rockies in New York. The New York Yankees do not employ as much netting at Yankee Stadium. On Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, a young girl in the stands at Yankee Stadium had to be carried out after she was hit by a line drive.
In this July 14, 2017 file photo, fans watch through a net as the Mets' Jacob deGrom delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Rockies in New York. The New York Yankees do not employ as much netting at Yankee Stadium. On Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, a young girl in the stands at Yankee Stadium had to be carried out after she was hit by a line drive.

LOS ANGELES — Major League Baseball offered to ditch its proposal for a pitch clock this year and also would go without one in 2019 if the average time of a nine-inning game drops to at least 2 hours, 55 minutes this season.

Speaking after a quarterly owners meeting ended Thursday, baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said owners authorized him to implement management's proposal from last offseason, which calls for a 20-second pitch clock this year, if an agreement cannot be reached with the players' association. Management has proposed a deal that would phase in new rules over the next three seasons

“We remain 100 percent committed to the idea that we need to make changes to address pace of game, and that the best way to address pace of game for us, for the players and most importantly for our fans is to get an agreement with the players,” Manfred said. “There is a strong sentiment among ownership that we need to do something about pace of play this year.”

Manfred thought he was close to a deal during the offseason, but union head Tony Clark said players rejected the proposal and said, “he didn't think he was in a position to make any agreement on the topic.”

There would be a pitch clock in 2019 if the average time of a nine-inning game is higher than 2:55 this year, Manfred said, and a person familiar with the plan told the Associated Press the proposal called for an 18-second timer and only with no runners on base.

MLB proposed if the average time of a nine-inning game in 2019 is 2:50 or higher, a 20-second pitch clock with runners on base would be added for 2020, the person added. MLB did not set a specific deadline for the union to reach an agreement.

The average time of a nine-inning game was a record 3:05 last year and has not been at 2:55 or below since 2011 and at 2:50 or under since 2006.

Also:

• All big league teams agreed to extend protective netting to at least the far ends of both dugouts this season to protect fans from foul balls. “All 30 of our clubs got to the right place,” Manfred said.

• Milwaukee's Mark Attanasio replaced the Pirates' Bob Nutting on the executive council, and Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox took over from Ray Davis of Texas.

• Of the slow free-agent period, Manfred said, “occasionally you're going to have some that are a little different, not quite as robust.” He said projections for next year are that “our payrolls are more compressed,” which benefits competitive balance.

• There will be no change in the 10-day disabled list after Manfred expressed concern last season that teams were manipulating it, especially around the All-Star break.

Talks began after the 2016 but Manfred said just one meeting that included players was held during the 2017 season, last August in Washington, D.C. He said the next 10 days are important in negotiations but has not set a specific deadline for a deal. Players start reporting to spring training Feb. 14 and big league exhibition games begin Feb. 23.

“They are well aware that we have a calendar that is ticking,” Manfred said. “We're waiting for some sort of response as to our last suggestion.”

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