Shohei Ohtani made history again Wednesday as the first player to run afoul of MLB's new pitch-timer rules as both a hitter and a pitcher, and said the rule's implementation is still in a gray area.
Starting this season, MLB pitchers have 20 seconds to begin their motion to the plate with runners on base, and 15 seconds with the bases empty. Failure to comply requires the umpire call an automatic ball.
In Wednesday's game, Ohtani walked the first two Seattle Mariners batters he faced in the first inning. Eugenio Suarez singled in a run on the next pitch. When Ohtani took too much time to collect himself, the umpire stopped the action and awarded Ball 1 to cleanup hitter Cal Raleigh.
Instead of becoming the next step down a slippery slope, the penalty provided a wakeup call.
"I was thinking I had to fix my overall rhythm," said Ohtani, who proceeded to strike out Raleigh and the batter after him to escape the inning with only one run scoring.
Ohtani spoke to the umpires after the third out and after the game as well about the new rule and how it relates to his own delivery.
"It seems like the umpires are also in something of a gray area," he said. "The rule has only barely begun to be implemented, and I want to be able to deal with whatever each situation demands."
He left the mound after allowing just the one run in six innings and picked up his first win of the season, but not before he incurred a penalty as a hitter in the top of the sixth.
Starting this season, batters have eight seconds to be in the batter's box and alert to the pitcher or receive an automatic strike. Ohtani came to the plate after teammate Mike Trout walked, and was greeted with Strike 1.
"I was waiting for the runner and was a little slow," Ohtani said. "When I draw a walk or something, I need to get to first base quickly or it will make it harder on the next hitter."