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Get ready for shorter baseball games in 2023

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MLB: MAR 27 Spring Training - Dodgers at Angels Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — The idea of the pitch timer, which was used in the minors last year and was adopted for the majors beginning in 2023, is to cut out a lot of the down time in between actual game action.

It’s taken some getting used to, and ironing out details. Dave Roberts said there have been multiple memos from the league this spring with minor updates and tweaks. But that’s part of what five weeks of spring training games are for, preparing for games that count during the season.

Major League Baseball said that in the minor leagues the average nine-inning game time decreased from three hours, four minutes without the timer in 2021 to two hours, 38 minutes with the timer in 2022.

A similar shedding of excess minutes happened during this spring training, the first time the pitch timer was used in major league play. Dodgers games during 2022 spring training averaged two hours, 58 minutes, with eight of the 18 games lasting at least three hours. This spring, Dodgers games averaged two hours, 37 minutes, and only three of 30 games lasted three hours.

“How fast was that game today, crazy,” Clayton Kershaw said after Sunday’s Freeway Series game against the Angels, which was completed in two hours, eight minutes. “Yeah, that was nuts.”

Regular season nine-inning games across MLB averaged three hours, three minutes in 2022. I’m skeptical that the 21-minute decline from spring training will transfer into the regular season, with more mid-inning pitching changes in games that matter.

And while the two-hour, 37-minute spring average sounds nice, that would be a pipe dream for the regular season, because of nationally televised games. The Dodgers have at least 13 national games already on the schedule, with more likely coming in the second half. Those games come with longer commercial breaks — from two minutes, 15 seconds between innings for locally televised games to two minutes, 45 seconds for national games — and while 30 extra seconds might not seem like a lot, there at least 16 of those breaks for a nine-inning game, which is at least eight or eight and a half extra minutes for each nationally televised game.

But even shedding 15 or so minutes off the average game time just by getting rid of the fluff seems like a win-win.

“I love it,” Roberts said of the pitch timer. “The rhythm of the game, the time of the game, all of that is going to leave everyone wanting for more the next day.”