Nationals' Max Scherzer says he's 'fundamentally against' pitch clock

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- If three-time Cy Young Award winner and Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer has his way, Major League Baseball's pitch clock will die in the South Florida humidity.

"I know as players, that's something that MLB is trying to negotiate," said Scherzer, a newly elected member of the Major League Baseball Players Association's executive board. "I don't think there's negotiation here. As players, it just shouldn't be in the game. Having a pitch clock, if you have ball-strike implications, that's messing with the fabric of the game. There's no clock in baseball, and there's no clock in baseball for a reason."

After pushing for an agreement with players last season, management decided on its own to experiment with 20-second pitch clocks during spring training this year, part of the sport's effort to speed the pace of play. Owners have the right to implement the clocks for the regular season but would prefer to reach an agreement with the union.

Under the phase-in designed to allow teams to get used to the concept without fear of penalty, pitchers and batters who were taking too long in Saturday's games were merely warned to hurry up.

When the policy, which has been used in some minor leagues since 2015, is phased in, a ball could be charged in certain situations to pitchers who do not begin their motion in time. Batters delaying the game might draw a strike.

Washington played its Grapefruit League opener Saturday night against Houston. Scherzer came close to using the full 20 seconds on a couple of occasions with runners on base, but the clock didn't expire.

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches features a pitch clock beneath the main outfield scoreboard and two at ground level behind home plate near each dugout.

"Now having to actually throw to it, I think it's more of a distraction than anything," Scherzer said. "I get that there are parts of the game that we can clean up, and I think that there can be meaningful changes. I'm fundamentally against this."

Scherzer felt his first outing dragging a bit, attributing the slow play to a high number of foul balls. He referenced an article published a few days ago by FiveThirtyEight citing an increase in foul balls as being a major reason for longer games.

"I'm not going to put my name next to this clock," he said.

Scherzer allowed one run on a Jake Marisnick homer, one of three hits he gave up in two innings. He struck out three and walked one while throwing 25 of 44 pitches for strikes.

The Nationals' game was one of 16 across Florida and Arizona that were played under the new rules, for which there won't be threat of penalty for the first few days or more. There were no notable incidents in the afternoon, when three of the six games approached or surpassed three hours.

"I hope it gets the tempo up," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said after the St. Louis Cardinals beat Miami 11-1 in 3 hours, 15 minutes. "It sounds like at the minor league level they get used to it, and that's the way you go."

Elsewhere, Los Angeles Dodgers veteran Rich Hill threw seven pitches in the first inning and retired the Chicago White Sox in order.

"I didn't notice the pitch clock," he said. "I'm against it, but I think it's just really a fundamental thing for me. That's it, period. It's there, great, maybe we can be aware of it. But if it's going to dictate the outcome of the game, I would hope everybody who loves the game and watches baseball would be against it for that reason only."

Hill added, "If it's out there and it's, 'Hey, we have to pick it up, we're using the clock to use as a warning or a guideline,' that would be fine. But I didn't really notice the clock. I usually pitch with pretty decent pace anyways."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who has two of the slowest pitchers in the game in Joe Kelly and Pedro Baez, said he thinks they will figure it out.

"They have to adjust," he said. "That's just the way it goes. We'll have those conversations with those guys. I think with spring training, it's a good opportunity for these guys to make an adjustment."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.