New gadget aims to communicate pitches and speed up games

NORTH PORT, Fla. — At the start of the spring, Major League Baseball introduced a gadget for its clubs to give a try: PitchCom. The electronic tool is a wearable device that a catcher places on his wrist, allowing him to deliver signs to the pitcher by pressing buttons. The pitcher receives the sign through an earpiece. The middle infielders and center fielder also do, so they know how to position themselves accordingly.

The whole point? Eliminate sign-stealing and make pitchers work quicker.

Kevin [Plawecki] was saying that it was good because of the timing,” manager Alex Cora said in Fort Myers, Fla., on Friday morning prior to the Sox’ 6-3 loss to the Braves in North Port. “You can give the sign and the pitcher’s not on the rubber yet. You know, like, while he’s throws the ball back. You can go to the next pitch. It’s a good first step.”

The tech has proven to be an effective tool in college. But Cora noted that the majority of college coaches don’t allow their catchers to call pitches, with most of those from the coaches in the dugout. That formulaic approach makes it easier to navigate such a device. But in the pros, there’s a lot more nuance to the game, such as fake breaks middle infielders utilize to throw off base runners.

Additionally, what needs to be taken into account is crowd noise of a big league ballpark.

“Yeah I just wonder about playing at Fenway,” Cora said. “Packed house. Loud. Or go to Houston and they have the sound going, or Yankee Stadium.”

Even during the team’s game against the Orioles in Sarasota on Thursday, Kiké Hernández told Cora he had issues hearing.

“Probably they’re going to keep improving it,” Cora said. “But I really don’t feel it’s going to happen this year, but I do believe probably next year it will be here. When Kiké was playing in the right-center-field gap he wasn’t able to hear. There were certain pitches because he was moving, he wasn’t able to hear.”

No sweat for Houck

Despite registering back-to-back underwhelming starts, Tanner Houck isn’t concerned about being ready for the season. Houck delivered 2⅓ underwhelming innings Friday, during which he walked five batters.

“Yeah, the season’s right around the corner,” said Houck. “I feel very prepared for it.

“I know I struggled a little bit today, but it’s one of those things where you bounce back, come back stronger and get your work in.”

Historically, Houck is known to have bad springs, carrying a career 6.55 ERA. Cora didn’t express concern either and put it plainly.

“He was worse last year,” he said.

Pregnant pause

Trevor Story was supposed to make his debut Saturday, but the newly acquired second baseman traveled home for the birth of his child Friday. Cora said they’ll have an idea of when he’ll return soon. “Now we wait and see how everything goes,” Cora said. “If everything goes well, then we’ll decide when he comes back and all that. But right now, I think baseball is on the back burner.” Story took live batting practice Thursday for the first time in a Sox uniform . . . With under two weeks to go in spring training, Cora said position players need at-bats. The Sox have two more games before a day off Monday. Then the team travels to Bradenton to play the Pirates Tuesday, and you can expect a lot of the everyday position players to make that trip . . . Josh Taylor (back) is coming along slowly. Cora said the team will have to make a decision soon whether to place him on the injured list . . . Top pitching prospect Brayan Bello was optioned to Triple A Worcester. He pitched a scoreless inning in relief Friday, striking out a batter


Julian McWilliams can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.

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