PORT CHARLOTTE — Major League Baseball's long-debated rule change seeks to ban only the most violent collisions at home plate, penalizing runners and catchers who demonstrate obvious intent to create contact.
Runners are still allowed to slide into the plate, and catchers with the ball may still block the plate.
"It's not a radical departure from what it had been," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Under the new one-year experimental rule, a runner "may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher," and he may be called out for doing so even if the ball is jarred loose.
In enforcing the rule, umpires will consider whether the runner tried to touch the plate, and whether he lowered his shoulders or pushed through with his hands, elbows or arms when veering toward the catcher.
Similarly, a catcher who does not have the ball "cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score." And if he does, the umpire can call the runner safe.
Catchers who block the plate in the process of catching the throw or any unavoidable actions are considered exempt from penalty. Umpires can use video replay to help decide.
"We believe the new experimental rule allows for the play at the plate to retain its place as one of the most exciting plays in the game, while providing an increased level of protection to both the runner and the catcher," union chief Tony Clark said.
MLB also said that starting immediately teams "will be required to train their runners to slide and their catchers to provide the runner with a pathway to reach the plate at all levels in their organizations."
The Rays will follow suit. Maddon was not in favor of the change and said he is concerned that runners actually may be more subject to injury as they seek to avoid collisions.
Around the majors
EXTRA YEAR: Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said the team added a year to manager Ron Washington's contract through 2015. Washington has 611 wins in seven seasons and has led Texas to its only two World Series appearances. Also, Rangers ace right-hander Yu Darvish said he felt no back discomfort after facing hitters in a game-like situation for the first time this spring. Darvish had nerve irritation in his lower back late last season.
OBITUARY: Barney Nugent, a former Giants athletic trainer, died Saturday in Massachusetts after a short battle with cancer. He was 61.
METS: First baseman Ike Davis admitted that he concealed a nagging oblique strain from the team last year but claimed that the injury wasn't a factor in his poor performance. Davis confirmed a story that appeared Sunday on the New York Post's website.
NATIONALS: Right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard, the former Mitchell High standout, returned after not throwing for five days because of back tightness. Right-handed bullpen hopeful Ryan Mattheus is scheduled for an MRI exam on his chest.
ORIOLES: Nelson Cruz finalized an $8 million, one-year contract to likely become the team's regular DH.
PIRATES: Third baseman Brent Morel was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.