Thursday, April 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays say plate blocking rule won't change much

PORT CHARLOTTE — The Rays got right to work early Tuesday morning discussing MLB's new rule regarding home plate collisions in small group sessions, with manager Joe Maddon preparing to present their organizational position to the full squad today.

"I think I finally know what I think," Maddon said.

Preferring to not reveal specifics for competitive reasons, Maddon said in general that the Rays don't feel they'll need to change much from what they presently do to adhere to the new rules, which are designed to eliminate violent collisions at the plate.

"Quite frankly, I don't think there should be," he said. "I think it's an organizational concept that you have to decide for yourselves, how you want to teach this and what you want to gain from it or definitely not lose from it."

The Rays' two veteran catchers, Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina, were both surprised at the form of the new rule, and not particularly enthusiastic. "I'm old school," Molina said.

Molina said he may have to slightly adjust his technique, where he leaves the plate open and slides across to block as he receives the throw. "Now I'll have to wait that second and catch the ball and then do it," he said. "That's the part I have to kind of work into it. It's not much."

Hanigan said he, too, may have to make a small change — he tends to stick his leg out to block the plate ahead of the throw — but also doesn't see major adjustments needed. Plus he said he may feel more comfortable blocking the plate knowing he can't, at least legally, be run over.

"I've been doing it one way for so long, it's going to be tough to try to do anything different," he said.

Maddon also will provide direction to the baserunners, who he feels may be more at risk of injury trying to avoid potentially illegal collisions. OF Matt Joyce was among those who see it the same way: "I think the runners are more vulnerable."

Molina said he would have preferred the change been announced sooner so they had more time this spring to work through it. Though Maddon, further hinting that they won't change much, said, "If you're trying to learn something new, it would be difficult. And if you're not, it shouldn't be that difficult."

Both Molina and Hanigan said there is much unclear, and potentially up to an individual umpire's discretion, about the new rules, such as whether a runner can still hit a catcher who has the ball and is legally blocking the plate.

Maddon agreed: "You talk about Pandora's Box."

ARCHED UP: RHP Chris Archer didn't throw batting practice with his group, saying the change was scheduled-related, allowing him to throw to hitters Thursday then be on a five-day schedule to start Tuesday. "I'm open to any of that stuff," Maddon said. "There's nothing wrong with him at all, he feels great, he's throwing the ball wonderfully."

BREAKTHROUGH: RHP Juan Sandoval could have his visa issues in the Dominican Republic resolved by today and be able to report to camp in the next few days. There was word of progress for INF Wilson Betemit and RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo.

ZO' BETTER: 2B Ben Zobrist took ground balls and some swings at softly tossed balls, his previously tight and sore back continuing to improve. He is expected to rejoin workouts soon though is not likely to play in Friday's opener as he had hoped.

MISCELLANY: There has been more talk of the Rays' trade interest, potentially for pitching, in Seattle INF Nick Franklin, who was displaced by Robinson Cano. The Mets are also interested. … Camp visitors included former Rays OF Fernando Perez, now 30 and retired. … Thursday's workout will start and end early as players and staff will participate in the annual Rays Charity Golf Tournament at the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club in Bradenton.

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