By Dan Martin and George A King III
TAMPA — There won’t be a pitch clock this season, but MLB took steps on Monday to speed up pace of play and one of them could impact the Yankees more than many other teams.
The Commissioner’s Office announced that teams will be limited to six mound visits per nine-inning game, with one visit added for every extra inning.
Since those visits include those made by infielders and the catcher, it means Gary Sanchez won’t be able to stroll to the mound an unlimited amount of times — as he did last year.
The new rules count a mound visit as any time a coach or player leaves “his position to confer with the pitcher, including a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player.”
Exceptions include “discussions between pitchers and position players that … occur between batters in the normal course of play and do not require either the position player or the pitcher to relocate.”
If a team has used up its visits and the home-plate umpire determines that a pitcher and catcher have been crossed up on a pitch, a visit will be permitted.
“We will adjust well,’’ manager Aaron Boone said. “We will be ready. I won’t go too far down into specifics on how we will do it. That’s all part of our job, to prepare Gary and all our players. We have to make adjustments and that is what major league athletes have to do all the time. … It’s a new way of doing things.”
Pitching coach Larry Rothschild admitted it would be “a major adjustment.”
“It impacts your bunt plays,” Rothschild said. “It impacts when runners are given signs. … The hard part is that in spring training, you are not going to have it impacted so much because there are so many pitching changes.”
And following last year’s sign-stealing controversy between the Yankees and Red Sox, MLB will install new phone lines to “monitor the communications over those lines to prevent their use for sign-stealing.” MLB will also give teams direct slow-motion camera angles after the Yankees didn’t challenge a call in Cleveland during the ALDS because Joe Girardi said they didn’t get the right angle in time.
Regardless of his issues behind the plate, Sanchez consistently produces at the plate and Boone said that is sometimes taken for granted.
“Gary rakes, that’s what I think,’’ Boone said after Sanchez put on a show during batting practice. “He is special. He gets into that box and I do think he gets overlooked. I can’t wait to see what he is going to do again this year. We are going to work really hard in aiding him and hopefully allow him to continue to get better on both sides of the ball.”
On Monday, he crushed a live batting practice pitch from Taylor Widener over the St. Joseph’s Hospital sign above the left-field wall and hit the ball harder than anyone during regular BP.
Brett Gardner understands his role heading into a season hitting in the same lineup as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
“I wish I could feel what they feel when they hit a baseball,” Gardner said of the sluggers. “It’s pretty humbling for me to get in there sandwiched between those two guys. It reminds me my job is to get on base and let those guys hit the ball over the fence.”
Gardner said he hopes the depth in the lineup means more fastballs for him.
“That would be the idea, but it seems like all across the league, people are seeing less and less fastballs,” Gardner said. “I think the last thing [other teams] want to do is put someone on base in front of those two guys.”
Gardner added he is preparing to play left field on a regular basis, especially in the Bronx, where left field is larger than in some other stadiums.
“Obviously, there will be times when we’re facing a lefty and I probably won’t be there, but hopefully more times than not, I’ll be out there,” Gardner said. “We’ve got a lot of outfielders capable of doing a lot of different things. Wherever I fit into the picture, I’ll be glad to be out there.”
With all the buzz about the Yankees adding Stanton, the empty seats at GMS Field for the first full-squad far outnumbered the filled ones on a holiday.
Gleyber Torres was fielding throws in the dirt at second base long after the regular portion of the workout was over. On Sunday he worked extra at second base. If the highly rated prospect doesn’t start the season in the big leagues, it won’t be for lack of a work ethic.