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Manfred says too early to draw conclusions on pace changes

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) -- New baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says it is too early to draw conclusions about baseball's latest attempt to speed the pace of games.

Baseball is requiring batters to keep one foot in the batter's box in many instances and installed clocks to count down the time between innings and during pitching changes. The penalties are warnings and fines, which will start May 1.

"I thought the feedback on pace of play was positive," Manfred said Monday after meeting with New York Mets players. "I think they understand what it is we're trying to accomplish. I think they appreciate the fact we've taken kind of a measured approach to the problem to make sure we don't unintentionally change the game in a way that may not be positive."

The average time of a nine-inning game was 3 hours, 2 minutes last year, up from 2:33 in 1981.

"Spring training games are obviously different," he said. "We do like the early returns on it, but I think that the very nature of those spring games make it difficult to make any conclusion as to exactly how it's going to work during the regular season."

Manfred said MLB is monitoring the drop in offense but says it also is too early to make any decisions. The average runs per team per game has dropped from 5.14 in 2000 to 4.07 last year.

"We're at the point in time where we're trying to decide: Do we have a trend that's going to be persistent in terms of less offense or do we have a development where there's a little less offense and hitters are going to adjust and its going to go back the other direction?

"We're not really at the remedy phase. We're really trying to make a determination as to whether we have a persistent issue that needs to be addressed. The ideal resolution on that issue would be that hitters make adjustments to what's going on in the game and the development doesn't turn out to a be a trend. That would be perfect from our perspective."

Manfred declined to comment on the class-action lawsuit minor league players filed against MLB in February 2014 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. They allege violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, a 1938 law that stipulates a minimum wage for workers and requires overtime for most employees who work more than 40 hours weekly.

The starting salary for minor league players is $1,100 per month for the five-month minor league season, though some players selected in the amateur draft and some international amateur free agents command large signing bonuses.

"I think that the issue of compensation in minor leagues is very difficult to take in a snap shot: `What did you earn that year?'" Manfred said. "So many people have bonuses on their way into the game. I think it's a little more complicated than just what the wage scale is."

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