MLB

With Pitch Clock Pushing Pace, Padres Drop Cactus League Opener to Mariners

San Diego and Seattle got the first taste of what a more brisk baseball feels like

It took all of one inning for one of Major League Baseball's big rule changes to make its presence felt, and Manny Machado is the answer to a new trivia question.

In his first at-bat of the Cactus League season the Padres MVP candidate didn't get set in the batter's box before MLB's new pitch clock hit eight seconds. The home plate umpire dinged him with a violation and an automatic strike. It didn't matter for Manny, who singled against Mariners starter Robbie Ray despite being down 0-1 without seeing a pitch.

Machado is the first big leaguer ever to violate the pitch clock rules. But, that's what Spring Training is for. Overall the Padres lost to the Mariners 3-2 in a game that only took 2 hours, 29 minutes to complete. Last year games averaged 3 hours, 3 minutes so even though it's only one outing there just might be something to this new rule.

San Diego starter Nick Martinez wasn't bothered by it. He tossed 2.0 innings of shutout ball with four strikeouts and got some help from new 2nd baseman Ha-Seong Kim, who took his shortstop arm strength to the right side of the diamond and immediately put it to use. Seattle DH Mike Ford launched a double to right-centerfield. JP Crawford tried to score from 1st base but Kim's relay throw was a one-hop dart to Luis Campusano at the plate, cutting down Crawford by a mile. The Padres infield defense is going to be among the game's best in 2023.

The defense in left field, however, needs a little work.

Juan Soto dropped a fly ball that hit him right in the glove down the left field line. It should have been the final out of a scoreless inning for Ryan Weathers. Instead it turned into a 3-run inning (all unearned), accounting for all the Mariners offense.

Another bright spot for the Padres was Jackson Merrill. The 19-year-old shortstop prospect took over mid-game for Xander Bogaerts (who went 0-2 with a strikeout) and singled in all three of his plate appearances, scoring San DIego's first run in the 8th inning on a double by Matt Batten. Merrill was San Diego's 1st round draft pick in 2021 and has shot up the boards of talent evaluators after just one full season of pro ball.

The Padres are at it again on Saturday afternoon when Seth Lugo makes his Friars debut on the mound against the White Sox and Lance Lynn.

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