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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?"