Alex Avila on catching mask, lower profile and pitch clock

Alex Avila is committed to making the hockey-style catching mask work for him. He is open to lowering his profile behind the plate, open to batting second if that’s what Brad Ausmus wants to do with him. He is less enthusiastic about the potential for a pitch clock in the Major Leagues in future seasons.

“I don’t even want to think about a pitch clock,” Avila said, shuddering. “That sounds ridiculous to me.”

The mask, or at least a prototype of it, is already in, sent in to clubhouse manager Jim Schmakel earlier this month. Avila tried it on Thursday. He expects he’ll have other types to try out in Spring Training, but the general idea is the same. He’s done with the traditional two-piece mask.

“It seems like it’s going to help a great deal,” Avila said. “It’ll take a week or so to get used to, but I think the transition will be pretty easy.”

Even if it isn’t that easy, Avila plans on working through it.

“Eventually I’ll feel comfortable with it,” he said. “I will be wearing it full time.”

Whether it makes a difference will be something worth watching. Though plenty has been written over the last few years about catchers, concussions and the role masks play in them, opinions have been mixed over whether the type of mask makes a difference. Catchers have taken concussions wearing the hockey-style masks, and some catchers switched back to traditional masks as a result. Other studies say one mask or the other protects better depending on the type of impact — direct foul tip, foul off the side, or backswing.

Avila didn’t simply change for the sake of change. He looked into it, specifically the physics.

“For me, always to my knowledge, [the traditional mask] was safe, so what was the point [of changing],” he said. “If I’m going to get a concussion with that, I’ll get a concussion with the other one. But just the design, it’s a little bit different the way the hockey mask is angled, so you’re not taking a direct blow. It’s not as flush. It’ll ricochet off it more. A traditional mask is more flat, so when it hits it’s going straight down or going up, so you’re getting a little bit more of a whiplash.”

It’s the foul tip, particularly off to the side, that has been a problem for Avila in recent years.

The other difference Avila noted was inside the mask.

“What’s different about the hockey-style mask is you can adjust the padding to be a little more custom-fit,” he said. “There’s much more padding in that helmet than there is in the traditional mask.”

That might not be the only change Avila makes for his long-term health. Ausmus said he has talked with Avila about setting up lower behind the plate.

“He really sits up high,” Ausmus said. “We’re going to mess around in Spring Training and see if we can lower him, because the higher you are, the more apt you are to get those foul tips off the top of the bat that are moving up. If you’re a little lower, they miss your head.

“I don’t know how effective that’ll be. It’s tough to change that, but we talked about it. We’re going to take a look at it in the spring, because the concussions are something to be worried about.”

Avila is at least open to it, though admitting that could be tough to change at this point.

“The thing is I’ve caught one way the last six, seven years,” he said. “I’ve got to make sure I’m still comfortable. One of the things I take pride in is blocking pitches. Not too much gets by me, and I want to make sure that I’m comfortable and mobile whatever position I’m in. It’ll be something we take a look at.”

That’s a wholehearted openness to adapt compared with his feelings on the pitch clock proposal that will get a test run at Double-A and Triple-A levels this year after its debut in the Arizona Fall League.

“It’s a terrible idea,” he said. “I’m not a fan of it. I can see it now: The clock going down, the fans going, ‘Five … four … three …’ That’s terrible. It’s a terrible idea. To me that’s not baseball. At all.”

His counter to game length is the break between innings, which differs from locally broadcast games to nationally televised ones.

“There’s no reason to have three or four minutes in between innings,” he said. “If you want to make it faster, you have to look at ways of doing that. It’s the stuff that you’re adding into the game that is what’s making the game long. Players have had routines going in and out of the batter’s box forever. The difference between nowadays and the 80s and the 70s is TV.”

23 Comments

Using a pitch clock is the worst Idea I’ve ever heard. Dictating where teams can station their defenders is the second worse. What’s the matter with this Manfred guy? Is this what we’ve got to look forward to?

I don’t even know why anyone would even think about banning shifts. That’s gotta be the stupidest idea I’ve heard. Here’s a better idea hit the ball the opposite way. Learn to adapt as a hitter. If the defense can adapt that means the hitter has to.

I definitely think they need to speed up the game. I don’t know how but a pitch clock probably isn’t it. It would help a lot once a runner is on though. I like the idea of keeping a batters foot in the box and reducing the time between innings, pitcher changes, and maybe mound visits.

Pitch count! Teams try to run up the pitch count by taking more pitches which lengthens games. Since they started counting pitches in the late 80’s the number of pitchers used per team game has gone from 2.5 to 4.

Yeah, I’ve thought that all along. Pitch count was a seismic shift in the game in many ways, most of them bad. Unfortunately can’t do anything about that.
Makes me nervous when they start tinkering with the rules of a game that has existed over 62% of the lifetime of the United States.

The only people that complain about the long games are baseball reporter and writers …. You got to realize if your pitcher just went out there and threw thrity pitches you a team need to slow the pace down and let him take a break … I the fan I like three and a half hour game … and come out and watch batting pracdice .there is really nothing wrong maybe getting out of the box .. Go Tigers 2015 …

Commercials are one of the problems. I almost never watch regular programming channels because I can’t stand all the commercials.
.
Even when Dan & Jim are broadcasting on radio, there are more and more commercials and some of them cut into their broadcast and during the game. Right now, I’m trying to watch a movie and there have been 7 commercials in the space of about one minute and a few seconds. Drives me nuts.

I can’t believe this new PA President is actually going along with the idea of ending defensive shifts so there can be more offense. Come on.

I like to record the game so I can fast forward past the commercials.

Since the shortening of the game has already been fully explained out back in 2000 by dr. thompson http://proxy.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?id=860846
.
but lets get real they need to make the game longer – games go too fast these days.
I remember in 2003 when a game would seem to never end. And a longer season would be nice too…again, 2003 never seemed to end. Their salaries keep going up anyhow – maybe game extension is the key to getting our monies worth.

One good thing about covering the 2003 season was that the games went quickly. Lots of losses in 2 hours and change.

Why are we in such a hurry to get a game over with anyway? I like that it lasts an entire summer evening. I can go outside, get some chores done, come back in and only have missed maybe an inning or so. It’s great. Those long between inning commercial breaks? They allow you to tackle some of the smaller jobs. Need to make an ice cream run? Half inning will do it. Pick a half inning when the bottom of the order is coming up. Then when it’s dark out, settle in, it’s only the 6th inning. You got at least another 1 to 1.5 hours of baseball left. It’s a great way to “pass the time”.

I agree.

me too

The beauty of baseball is that there is no clock! There is no “taking a knee” to run out the clock, or faking an injury to give your team more time, or the losing team fouling the winning team in hopes of extending the game. Imagine losing a game in extra innings with runners on base and the pitch clock runs out forcing in the winning run. The amount of money going into players salaries is a good indication that professional baseball is healthy; there is no point in destroying the game to bring in new fans.

Next thing you know they will move to softball slow pitch rules of foul balls with 2 strikes causing an out when a batter is able to foul off the pitches he does not want – this is baseball and a timeclock is crazy. The defensive shift is even crazier to think it should be banned – looking forward to seeing our new team and getting back into the blog again!

From what I see out there, Manfred’s ideas are not well received, to say the least. Can he be recalled? What a start to his tenure.

Maybe he just intends on listening and not just dismissing ideas because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” We can hope he’s open-minded to all.

someone told me max said he wanted to be in a winning culture on a winning club…so that’s why he signed for the nattys.

Yep, the Nats have a winning tradition that stretches back over whole three seasons.

He said:”I think this team is capable of winning and winning a lot,” Scherzer said. “When you look at near term and long term, this is an organization you want to be a part of. … I want to win and that’s why I’m here.”
But the headline is :
“Winning culture led Scherzer to Nationals”
http://m.mlb.com/news/article/106954606/winning-culture-led-max-scherzer-to-washington-nationals

Winning culture? including one playoff as Montreal? 3

Commish? Meet the new boss, same as the the old boss

Yep it’s what I’ve been saying for almost a year now. He’s either greedy and or a liar turns out he’s both. That being said I’m glad they didn’t sign him for a ridiculous contract and I thought 144 was ridiculous for a pitcher who’d had one great year and the rest was mediocre. And by the way other than that relief appearance against A’s in then playoffs he’s basically failed in the playoffs. See ya

7. If all the pieces goes efficiently you can be notified.

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