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2 posts from February 25, 2014

February 25, 2014

Marlins catchers to approach new rule on collisions same way -- giving lane to back of plate

JUPITER -- As a former catcher, Marlins manager Mike Redmond says he's never had a problem with collisions at the plate.

He likes the aggressiveness on both sides, the concept of a runner trying to knock the ball out of the catcher's mitt and the catcher trying to hold on for dear life.

Major League Baseball's new experimental rule (7.13) -- announced Monday and aimed at protecting those parties from injuring each other -- is making its way around major league clubhouses now. Reaction has been mixed. In the Marlins clubhouse, Redmond said "there's definitely still some grey areas to this rule."

"I think the meat of it is good," Redmond said. "But I still feel like we're going to approach this thing the same way as far as our catchers, how we setup. We setup and give them the back part of the plate so they can either slide into it or reach with their hand. You can still block the plate as long as you have the ball. And that's what we're going to do.

"I don't think it's a huge adjustment for us. Probably more comfortable for the catchers now because they don't have to worry about getting run over. There still could be some contact there, but at the same time too you can't lower your shoulder, push with your arms or anything. The catcher is going to be able to hang in there a lot longer and not worry about the contact."

Good for catchers it seems and not so much for runners.

"What I've told our runners is you have to slide into home plate," Redmond said. "It's just the way it is. And the catchers once they catch the ball they're going to be able to block the plate. So it will be interesting to see how those bang-bang plays -- the instinct plays -- how those work. 

"The way I understand it is you can still have the collision but it's going to be up to the umpire to judge the collision because you can't lower your shoulder, you can't push off with your arms. So I don't know how your going to go into the guy. So unless you're going to chest bump him I'm not sure exactly how its going to happen.

"Now you're thinking about how do I slide. You got to be thinking about where the ball is, how am I going to slide in here. It creates a lack of aggressiveness for the runner for me."

The Marlins began spring training not knowing exactly what MLB was doing to do about collisions so they kept their padded cylinder dummies -- used for simulating collisions in camp -- inside. They brought them back out Tuesday.

"With the dummy you don't have to run it into the guy. You can just slide it and throw it as a guy sliding," Redmond said. "You still have to prepare for guys sliding, hook slides, practice your tags that way. We just won't be ramming it into them like we used to."

> The Marlins open exhibition play Wednesday against the University of Miami. Redmond said he planned to get most of his regulars an at-bat before letting minor leaguers and backups get most of the action. The plan is the same versus FIU on Thursday.

New rule for collisions at the plate 'how it should be' says Saltalamacchia

JUPITER -- Major League Baseball's new experimental rule aimed at protecting catchers and runners from dangerous collisions at the plate sits well with new Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

"I understand what they're doing -- they're trying to protect the catcher, eliminate the dirty plays basically," Saltalamacchia said Tuesday. "I'm for that.

"From what I understand it's basically going to be the same. You just can't block the plate without the ball, which is how it should be. I always thought that was the rule to begin with. I think they did a good job. From what I understand from where it started at to what it is now it seems pretty fair."

The new rule -- tabbed Rule 7.13 -- sets forth two big changes. One, a runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (he can't lower his shoulder or use his hands in a collision to dislodge the ball). Two, unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, he cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score.

In the event the runner or catcher is found to be in violation of those rules then the umpire has the right to change the call, using instant replay as well if needed. 

"Only grey area I see maybe is on the runner's side of it, knowing he may have to slide but if the [catcher is] in the way -- that may cause some issues," Saltalamacchia said. "But hopefully not. I don't think there's any clear cut way. This is probably the best way it could have went. There's no going to be a happy side until it just stays how it is. And even then."

The Marlins as an organization have yet to discuss their plans of how they plan to approach teaching the new rule from top to bottom, but the St. Louis Cardinals, who share the facility here in Jupiter with the Marlins, have already taken a strong stance toward the new rule.

They plan on teaching their players to give up a lane and avoid collisions at all costs, general manager John Mozeliak said Monday.

“I think each team can think about it the way they want," Mozeliak said. "Obviously, we look at [All-Star catcher Yadier Molina] as one of those elite MVP caliber players. We'd like him to give the lane.

“Not only will we practice that from the major league level but that's what we will begin teaching from the bottom to the top. We will be advocates to take the lane.”

Mozeliak said the Cardinals actually wanted "a more strict policy, something that veered more like the NCAA, but this was certainly a great step in the right direction.”

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he hopes when a runner goes out of his way this season to take a catcher out "he will be made an example of."

"I think there are still going to be some train wrecks at home plate," Matheny said. "I'm just encouraging my guys to do what they can to avoid that."

Marlins veteran utility man Ty Wigginton -- who once had a memorable collision at the plate with manager Mike Redmond back in 2003 -- said he's reserving judgement on the new rule until he gets more details. Baseball officials are expected to visit teams throughout spring training to provide further instruction on the new rule.

“The way you always used to do it, the catcher lines up the plate and the foul line with his left foot," Wiggington said. "As a runner you kind of use that left foot as your gauge. If that left foot crosses over, he’s technically blocking the plate.

“We’ll see how it plays out. We’ve all got to play by the rules. I’ve always said that when rule changes happen, to me it’s always weird. The replay on home runs a few years ago when we started doing that. I’ve been in situations where it benefited my team, I’ve been in situations where it didn’t.

"It’s kind of like, Babe Ruth didn’t have it, why do we need it?"