February 24th, 2014

MLB negotiates experimental rule on plate collision

Brad Ausmus was afraid Major League Baseball was going to ban collisions at home plate with its new rule, turning it into just another base. He was also worried he’d have to adjust his first Spring Training camp to allot time to teach a new approach to his catchers. Neither of those fears were realized.

Alex Avila wasn’t too thrilled about the possibility of no contact at the plate, either. He’s likely going to be satisfied with the new rule in place on an experimental basis.

Monday’s announcement from Major League Baseball puts restrictions on what baserunners and catchers can do on plays at the plate, but doesn’t ban the collision. To put it in basketball terms, the rule for 2014 is aimed more towards the flagrant foul than the block/charge call.

  1. If a runner strays from a direct path towards home plate to instead initiate contact with the defender covering home (whether it’s the catcher or somebody else), the umpire can call him out. If the runner strays from the direct path but then tries to slide into the plate, hitting the ground with his body before hitting the catcher, he’s fine.
  2. If the catcher doesn’t have the ball, he can’t block the plate. But if the catcher blocks the runner’s path because it was the only way he could catch the throw home, then he’s fine.

Simple enough, and not nearly as sea-changing as some might have predicted. The teeth of the rule change arguably is educational, because clubs will now be required to teach runners to slide at home and catchers to allow the runner a path to the plate — at every level of their organization.

That seemingly sets up another rule adjustment down the road, which could bring up this debate again. For now, though, the impact is more subtle.

Verlander throws 48 pitches in live BP session (updated)

Spring Training 014

Eight pitches into his first meeting with hitters this spring, Justin Verlander was questioning whether a pitch was a ball or a strike. Twelve pitches in, he was cursing at himself for a pitch he didn’t execute to his liking. This can only mean one thing: Tigers baseball is back.

Verlander had a pitch count of 45-50, according to Brad Ausmus. By my count, he threw 49. Unlike every other live BP session this week, he was on the mound at Joker Marchant Stadium, since he was the only pitcher throwing today. He had a small crowd watching in the stands as he faced Daniel Fields and Craig Albernaz, and he seemed to have a little adrenaline building as he went along.

“It went pretty good,” Verlander said. “A lot of rust to knock off, but that’s normal.”

Verlander said the core muscle injury that required surgery to repair was not a concern. His footing slipped on him while throwing a curveball, he said, and he still didn’t feel anyhting.”

Verlander will throw another live BP session on Thursday. If that goes well, he’ll slot into the rotation from there, though manager Brad Ausmus and pitching coach Jeff Jones said no date has been decided on a first start.