Balks the biggest difference in Givens this spring

SARASOTA, Fla. – Mychal Givens is due to make another spring appearance for the Orioles, perhaps this afternoon in Dunedin. It’s been six days. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in four outings and his heels are dug into his lock status in the bullpen. A sure thing if healthy.

The sidearmer has surrendered an unearned run and two hits with seven strikeouts in four innings. He looks much the same as the reliever who worked in high leverage situations for the club before the 2020 trade with the Rockies.

There’s one particular oddity.

Givens was called twice for balks in his first appearance and had another in his next game. He isn’t doing anything differently with runners on base.

The new pitch clock could be the culprit, influencing how umpires are policing the pitchers.

“I think they’re still not adjusted and they’re trying to enforce it to create a similarity of trying to make the rules what they think they want to make them. There are still a lot of adjustments I think they need to make with the rules,” said Givens, whose only major league balk in 419 games was called in 2021 with the Reds.

“It’s tough. They’re doing a great job and they’re doing the best they can, but they have to take responsibility for a lot of things they didn’t normally have to do. So, they’re trying the best way that they can. I know it’s a little frustrating seeing a lot of guys getting balk calls or balls or strikes. Hitters not getting in the box. It’s tough. But at the same time, the umpires are trying to establish the rules that they got handed to them.

“It’s going to be an interesting season.”

It might feel quicker, though with the same number of games.

The Orioles played their longest game Monday at 3 hours and 20 minutes, but it may have stretched to four hours or more in the pre-clock days with so many pitching changes in the middle of innings and a combined 20 runs and 21 hits. Yesterday’s 6-2 win over the Red Sox was completed in 2 hours and 6 minutes.

The regular season figures to slow it’s roll a bit, as Givens pointed out.

“You’re not implementing when challenges are called, you’re not implementing TV time, commercials,” Givens said. “The average time last year was like 3 hours and eight minutes. Cut 20 minutes and it might be around 2 hours and 50 minutes. Is that a big difference that we’re losing? At the same time, people are going to watch it or people aren’t going to watch it. I grew up watching baseball my whole life because of my grandfather. This audience is going to watch or not watch but look at the WBC. We didn’t have any of those rules there and look how exciting those games were. Even though it’s like a playoff atmosphere, it’s still baseball.

“We’ll see. We’re going to make adjustments. I think pitchers are doing a really good job with it, our pitching staff. Talking to hitters, they’re still adjusting to it, but it could be another month into the season because it’s different being in spring training and the regular season.”

It’s also spring training for the umps. And some players have theorized that a few rules, like how quickly a player leading off an inning must be in the box and when a pitcher must complete his last warmup toss, could be tweaked in the regular season.

“I think they’re just trying to enforce something to be really strict right now,” Givens said. “Who knows? It might be more relaxed during the season, but at the same time, everybody’s trying to make adjustments to it.”  

* The Orioles are in Dunedin this afternoon for the second and final time to play the Blue Jays. The least-popular drive and bus rides of the spring.

Getting back in weekday traffic can be quite an adventure.

Dean Kremer makes his fourth start overall and second since returning from the World Baseball Classic. José Berríos pitches for the Jays.

Manager Brandon Hyde said his regulars will stay in games longer over the last week of camp, though many of them will remain in Sarasota today.

“We come back, we have a few (three) night games in a row, which is nice. And you might see some guys play other positions, also,” Hyde said.

“Just trying to get as many at-bats for these guys as possible this last week.”

Terrin Vavra played two innings at first base Monday in Clearwater. He wasn’t tested, but at least he made it into a game after taking ground balls in drills to get ready.

“Caught a couple (balls),” Hyde said, smiling. “Looked good on the stretches.”

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