Clark says players against radical speed-up changes

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Major league players are against many of the radical changes introduced during the Arizona Fall League to speed up games.

Baseball players' association head Tony Clark is encouraging his membership to make slight adjustments that will improve the pace of games without completely altering the way they do their jobs.

A former All-Star first baseman and the first player to head the union, Clark said Wednesday on the first stop of his spring training tour that extreme methods aren't feasible at the sport's highest level.

"With this particular discussion, having an opportunity to see if we can address some concerns that some have, while creating some new habits without jeopardizing the integrity of the play on the field, this was the hope here," Clark said. "With the batter's box rule, with the in-between innings timing, with the pitching change timing, we're simply hopeful that those adjustments have some affect on the length of the game but do so without significantly changing the way the guys play, prepare, do what they need to do."

Players agreed to time limits for between-innings breaks and pitching changes, and a requirement batters keep one foot in the box in many instances. But the only penalties will be warnings and fines, not balls and strikes, and the fines won't start until May 1.

"The biggest thing was they were trying to explain the rules of the pace of play, just clarifying what's going on with it," pitcher and Giants player rep Matt Cain said after Clark spoke with the team. "He did a great job of simplifying things."

Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz has strong feelings about the new rules and doesn't plan to alter his approach - even if it means he will be regularly fined. He steps out of the box to try to gain a mental edge.

The rule requiring hitters to keep a foot in the box contains many exceptions, including swinging at a pitch, getting forced out by a pitch, calling time, faking a bunt, and wild pitches and passed balls.

"Well, I might run out of money. Period," Ortiz said Wednesday. "I'm not going to change my game. I don't care what they say. ... I've got to take my time to think about what they're going to try to do against me. ... They put the rules together but they don't talk to us as a hitter. ... Why don't you come and ask questions first and then we come to an agreement?"

The AFL experiment included a 20-second clock between pitches, a limitation of pitcher's mound conferences involving catchers and managers, and no-pitch intentional walks.

"I think it's great that they had a 16-game experiment in the Arizona Fall League, but that is not reflective of a major league game during the season," Clark said. "They've decided to implement any number of rules that they want to implement in the minor leagues, and that's fine, too. Unfortunately we don't represent those players, but even in the minor leagues it's a different ballgame than it is in the major leagues, and I think you would have any player, coach or anybody who's been around the game for a long time suggest that those games are different."

Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said another focus of the hour-long meeting was gearing up for bargaining that will start next year for a labor contract to replace the current deal, which expires in December 2016. Clark insists there are plenty of lawyers on staff and available to handle the negotiations.

He hopes to build on the last bargaining round of 2011, when 240 players participated in various stages. While players who were part of the last work stoppage in 1994-95 are mostly long gone from the game, Clark expects participation from active players to be a key again.

"Collectively, we are more connected than most. We have a staff who are on the front lines and experienced any number of work stoppages," he said. "We have players who are on teams now that are aware of or familiar with 2002, when although we didn't have a work stoppage there was a strike deadline, the clock hit zero. ... I have absolutely no concerns about the resolve of our guys if we can't come to a place where a fair and equitable deal can be made. I'm hopeful that is the case, but our guys will be prepared to negotiate over any topic at any time and be equipped to do so."