Before the fifth inning of Tuesday’s 4-2 victory by the Mets over the Phillies at Citi Field, Scherzer got into an intense conversation with home plate umpire Tripp Gibson over enforcement of the pitch clock. Between innings, MLB rules state there is two minutes between half-innings for local broadcasts, with pitchers allowed eight warm-up pitches. But with Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez making the last out of the bottom of the fourth, delaying his arrival behind home plate after needing time to put on catching gear, Scherzer could not finish his eight warm-up pitches before Gibson signaled for the start of the inning, prompting a discussion between pitcher and umpire.
“Why can’t the umpires have discretion in that situation to allow eight normal warm-up pitches?” Scherzer said. “Why do we have to be so anal about this to have the clock shoved in everybody’s face and try to step out every little second that’s going into the game?”
According to Scherzer, when he asked Gibson about why he could not finish his warm-up pitches, the umpire said the league would “get mad at him” if he did not strictly enforce the clock. While MLB previously implemented a clock to measure break times between innings in 2015, they were not strictly enforced, giving umpires leeway to allow pitchers to throw an extra warm-up even if the time on the clock expired.
That has changed in 2023, according to Scherzer.
“It’s situations like this that really are frustrating not only for pitchers, players, but even umpires,” Scherzer said. “That’s what Trip says. Trip is handcuffed. Why is Trip handcuffed to not allow something normal, a normal routine. Why can’t Trip make that call?”
Scherzer said Gibson wanted him to speak out about the issue publicly because the umpires want discretion to give players more time in situations like Thursday, when Alvarez came out later than usual after making the final out of the inning.
“They want to allow the game to be normal,” Scherzer said. “The umpires are frustrated that the game is not normal, that we’re living and dying by the clock. I said I would speak for him. We’re way too far thinking about the clock in every single situation instead of letting players have their normal routines.”
Throughout the season, Scherzer has had a love-hate relationship with the pitch clock. In February, he described the pitch clock as a “cat-and-mouse” game that gave pitchers power to dictate pace.
“Really, the power the pitcher has now — I can totally dictate pace,” Scherzer said in February. “The rule change of the hitter having only one timeout changes the complete dynamic of the hitter-and-pitcher dynamic. I love it.”
The future Hall-of-Famer tested the boundaries of the rules during spring training, getting called for a balk in his second preseason start in March after he started throwing a pitch to Washington Nationals outfielder Victor Robles the moment umpire Jeremy Riggs reset the clock.
“We have to figure out where the limit is,” Scherzer said in March.
In his start on Thursday, Scherzer went seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits while striking out nine and walking one. The outing marked the third-straight quality start for Scherzer, who has a 3.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and a 5-2 record in nine starts this season, good for 0.8 bWAR.