Tuesday, February 27, 2018

So it Begins - Mound Visit Charged on Injury Timeout

When Twins pitcher Phil Hughes walked to home plate to check on catcher Mitch Garver, who had just taken a foul ball off his mask early in Monday's Cardinals-Twins game, Minnesota was surprised to learn that HP Umpire Jeff Kellogg had charged them with a mound visit, one of six allowed under baseball's new pace of play rules for 2018.
Related Post2018 Pace of Play Changes Limit Mound Visits, No Clock (2/19/18).

A pitcher conferring with an injured catcher?
Pursuant to MLB's new mound visit limit, any pitcher who leaves the mound to confer with a teammate during an at-bat shall cause his team to incur a charged mound visit. Although the rule provides an exemption for a pitcher who may be injured, there is no reciprocal exemption for another position player who may be hurt, and who is attended to by the pitcher.

Though Hughes stated his visit to Garver strictly pertained to a check on his catcher's wellbeing, rather than a discussion of strategy, he also understood from Kellogg that such a visit fits the pace-of-play bill—at least for now.

Twins Manager Paul Molitor vowed to take up the issue with MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre in the hopes of carving out a formal exemption that would allow a pitcher to attend to a potentially injured catcher during an at-bat without being charged a mound visit, as already exists for a catcher who might attend to a potentially injured pitcher.

If the rulebook says "catcher," it's only F2.
SIDEBAR: We ran into a somewhat similar problem of pitcher vs. catcher language in the rules book during a June 2014 game at Dodger Stadium, when plate umpire Mike Everitt ruled Dodgers baserunner Dee Gordon out at home plate on a wild pitch that eluded Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who threw to pitcher Lance Lynn as Gordon slid into home plate. Though replays clearly indicated that Lynn appeared to block home plate in contravention of then-Rule 7.13, closer examination of the rule indicates that the catcher is the restricted fielder: the rule as written did not apply to the pitcher, and a Replay Review decision upheld Everitt's initial out/no violation call.
Related Post: MLB Instant Replay Review 618: Mike Everitt (04) (6/28/14).

The language issue persists in modern-day rule 6.01(i)(2), which states, "Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score." The language "or other player covering home plate" applies only to 6.01(i)(1), regarding a runner who may be declared out from deviating "from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate)."

Thus, it would be reasonable to conclude that if the Rules Committee wrote a pace-of-play rule to specifically identify "the pitcher" as opposed to "a fielder," then that rule only applies to "the pitcher"—at least for now.

Molitor hopes an exception will be made, a memo released, or the rule rewritten, to encompass any injury, such as a pitcher attending to an injured catcher or a catcher visiting the mound to allow a downed plate umpire time to recover from a foul ball injury.

Meanwhile, Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle, in the aftermath of his own discussion with Torre, reminded baseball fans regarding the new pace of play rules, "it's not a finished product."


Post a Comment