When Glendale and Salt River met Wednesday at Camelback Ranch, the Desert Dogs defeated the Rafters, 7-5. It was Salt River's first loss since the AFL's Opening Day last Tuesday.
The Desert Dogs are led by shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers' No. 1 prospect, who is making his second appearance in the AFL. A year ago, he was the youngest player in the league when he played in 19 games as a 19-year-old. This year, Seager, ranked No. 13 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, is hitting .261/.370/.478 in six games.
The Rafters feature center fielder Byron Buxton, baseball's top prospect. Injuries limited him to just 31 games during the regular season, but he is healthy once again and has returned to the field this fall. In six games in the AFL, the 20-year-old is hitting .280/.357/.320.
On the mound, left-hander Robbie Ray, the Tigers' No. 2 prospect, will start for Glendale. Salt River will counter with left-hander Jayson Aquino. Neither pitcher allowed a run in their AFL debut last week.
Ray and Aquino will have to keep a close watch on the pitch clock, which led to three violations in Tuesday's game. Pitchers have 20 seconds to deliver a pitch or throw to a base. An automatic ball is called if a pitcher holds the ball too long.
The clock, which is displayed in five places at Salt River Fields, is also used to keep the time between innings to no more than two minutes and five seconds. Any violations result in an automatic ball or strike, depending on the offending team.
Only games at Salt River are governed by the clock and another rule limiting each team to three "time out" conferences per game. That includes meetings between pitchers and catchers, coaches and pitchers, and coaches and batters, but doesn't include pitching changes or injuries.
While Tuesday's game was a speedy affair, when the Rafters and Desert Dogs played Wednesday in Glendale without the pitch clock, the game lasted three hours.
At Glendale's Camelback Ranch and the other parks in the AFL, other rules are being tested in an effort to speed the game up. Batters are required to keep at least one foot in the batter's box throughout their plate appearance, unless one of a few exceptions, such as a foul ball, occurs. And when a manager calls for an intentional walk, the batter automatically takes first base, instead of standing in for four pitchouts.
The experimental pace of play initiatives continue the AFL's tradition of being a testing lab for MLB's potential rule changes. Last year, the instant-replay system was debuted in the AFL.
Fans will have several other opportunities this fall to watch games using the pitch clock. All games listed below can be seen on MLB.com and MLBFallBall.com.
Tonight, Glendale at Salt River, 9:35 p.m.
Friday, Peoria at Salt River, 9:35 p.m.
Oct. 30, Surprise at Salt River, 9:35 p.m.
Oct. 31, Scottsdale at Salt River, 12:35 p.m.
Nov. 4, Mesa at Salt River, 8:35 p.m.
Nov. 6, Mesa at Salt River, 8:35 p.m.