Rays tested pitching technology

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — With one out in the second inning of Saturday’s game between the Rays and Braves, the Atlanta team had runners on first and second base with Ryan Goins entering the batter’s box.

Instead of walking to the mound to set up new signs with pitcher Phoenix Sanders, Tampa Bay catcher Mike Zunino stayed behind home plate and jammed a button into a device in his left arm.

The Rays used new technology that allowed Zunino to signal Sanders through a pitch-coordination system developed by PitchCom that could improve the pace of the game and eliminate illegal signal-stealing.

The minor leagues tested the system in California’s Class-A Baja League last year, but Saturday was the first time it was used in a game by Major League players. Both parties directly involved were extremely satisfied.

“It’s something that intrigues me, and I hope it gets more going,” Zunino said. “I think it’s something that will help the game go further.”

Here’s how the system works: Zunino would press a button, and over an encrypted channel, each player with the device hears a generic voice — pre-recorded in English or Spanish — saying which pitch has been chosen.

“It’s almost their version of Siri or Alexa telling you what to launch,” Sanders said.

That shortened the time Sanders, already a fast-working pitcher, spent between pitches.

Tampa Bay’s squad went back to the traditional method of choosing pitches after Sanders. Zunino added that he wasn’t the only one who noticed the difference in pace the rest of the engagement.

“Everything was so easy. I talked to umpire Chad Fairchild, and he noticed when we didn’t use it after Phoenix left,” Zunino said. “We were able to keep a better pace. Everything went almost smoothly.”

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Rays tested pitching technology