Timber Rattlers players adapt to new Midwest League rules

GREAT FALL – Change is never easy, especially in a game over a century and a half old. But the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers see some upside in a few of the changes for the 2022 season.

Major League Baseball has enacted a number of rules, including the addition of a pitch clock, larger bases, and the elimination of lag, which will be tested in the minor leagues this season. Teams have a one week grace period to adjust to the changes.

“It will be a period of adjustment,” Timber Rattlers manager Joe Ayrault said in his 13th season as a manager in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, but first in Wisconsin. games are going to be a bit faster this year with the pitch clocks.”

Pitchers and batters must be ready to go in 14 seconds if there are no baserunners and 18 seconds if there are runners.

“The batter has to be nine seconds alert,” Ayrault said. “We had it in the Florida State League a few years ago when I got it right. I’ve actually seen more hitters get blown up on that one. Whether they do it on their songs, they gotta watch out for the pitcher at nine seconds.

“When there’s a runner on base, it’s 18 seconds. As for giving signs to your catcher or the batter to get signs from a manager with guys on base, that’s just fine. be a learning curve with us guys just getting used to it. Maybe a faster pace of play.”

Rattlers pitcher TJ Shook, who played with the Rattlers for part of last season, isn’t concerned about the new rule.

“Honestly, I think it’s good,” Shook said. “I think it will increase the pace of the game for sure. It can sometimes be stressful if a batter isn’t ready or a pitcher isn’t ready. It puts a bit of stress on you to rush and maybe- be throwing a land you don’t want to throw in. Maybe putting yourself in an awkward situation.

“I think the batter has to be ready in nine seconds, otherwise, we’re free to throw the pitch whether he’s watching or not. They just have to be in the box and watching by nine seconds.”

If the pitcher fails to pitch the ball in the allotted time, the batter is rewarded with a ball in their count.

Infielder Tyler Black, the Brewers’ sixth prospect according to MLB Pipeline, said he doesn’t care about a pitch clock.

“It’s bullshit,” Black said. “I go to the box quickly, so it really doesn’t affect me, I feel like.”

As for the bigger bases, Ayrault, like his team, is seeing them for the first time.

“From here, it looks like a base, so everything will be fine,” Ayrault said with a smile. “We’ll deal with it, we’ll run with it. Hopefully it’s a safer affair, especially with plays at first base. Since he’s a bit bigger, you might see less collisions at first goal, which will be awesome.”

Shook said the larger bases weren’t a big deal.

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers manager Joe Ayrault watches the action against the Peoria Chiefs in Saturday's season opener at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute.

“It really doesn’t affect me as a pitcher, but I think it will help a bit with safety issues,” Shook said. “Maybe some guys have big feet. The bigger base will help make them safe, maybe not stepping on the first baseman or twisting their ankle or something. I think it will be good.

Black is also taking a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to changing base sizes.

“I’ve never played with it before,” Black said. “We’ll see. Still to be determined.”

Other rules fans will see the biggest difference in the change, or lack thereof.

“They also have to be on clay,” Ayrault said. “So there are two guys on either side of the second. It will be a little adjustment period, but I think it’s good. It’s back to a traditional style where you’re not going to see any crazy changes , so you might see more success. We’ll see how it goes. I think it will be good.”

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It will take some getting used to, but some of the Rattlers don’t mind his elimination.

“It’s really interesting what they’re trying to do, especially like the switch stuff,” Black said. “Being an infielder is really interesting. It’s going to be an adjustment for sure. I obviously think the game is changing. We’ll see how it goes. If it can speed up the game, whatever. Baseball is baseball, so don’t “I don’t touch it too much. That’s my take on it.”

Shook has mixed emotions over the elimination of change.

“We changed guys last year,” Shook said. “Throughout college, at least where I played (in South Carolina), we changed. I honestly think it’s going to be good. I know I remember a handful of times when it helped me and a handful of times it hurt me I think it will level the playing field and maybe make it a little easier for hitters to hit I think it will be good .

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