Butterfield skeptical on plate-collision rules

December, 14, 2013
12/14/13
4:42
PM ET
BOSTON -- Having served as a third-base coach for 10 years in the major leagues, there isn't a lot left that the Boston Red Sox's Brian Butterfield hasn't seen. However, with MLB set to eliminate home-plate collisions by 2015 at the latest, Butterfield is anticipating the possibility of a major change to the way he does his job.

"I haven't spoken to [manager John Farrell] about it yet but that's going to have to come up in spring training when we talk about our baserunning," Butterfield said. "It may change our thought process. I'm sure it's something that John's thinking about already."

Sandy Alderson, chairman of MLB's rules committee, announced the proposed rule change Wednesday, with sources telling ESPN's Buster Olney the rule will not allow catchers to block home plate or runners to target catchers, under threat of punishment. Butterfield said he is unsure of what to think about the changes, citing the need for more information.

"I want to find out more," Butterfield said. "When you first hear it, they were talking a lot about the catcher's welfare … but the thing that I want to know is how they're going to govern everything from a catcher's standpoint as well as a baserunner's standpoint.

"I think it's going to be real important on both sides. It's got to be both sides and there are some things I'm having a tough time [with]. I don't know how they're going to play the ball that is thrown and takes the catcher up the line.

"If you've got somebody coming in knowing that [they] can loosen your jaw a little bit, a lot of times you're not going to be as aggressive to go get that ball. Catchers knowing that there's no contact, they're going to feel real good with all that gear on going up the line.

"I don't want to see catchers get hurt but I also don't want to see runners get hurt, so it's going to be real important the way they word the rule. How are you going to protect the runner?"

Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway shared a similar stance toward the proposed change.

"I've talked to a few of the other catchers and I think that in general we all want to see it the way it is. We think that that is a part of the game," Lavarnway said. "I understand where the owners are coming from, they're trying to keep us healthy. I think that their intentions are in the right place and I think that we can find some middle ground, but if it was up to me, I'd leave it the way it is.

"If you start changing the rules of the way we grew up and you're asking players to do something that's not natural to most of them, that concerns me because you learn how to protect yourself by the way you know the rules to be. And when you change something like that it's a little unpredictable."

The language of the rule change is set to be presented to owners for approval at their Jan. 16 meetings. Approval from the players union is necessary for the change to be put into effect in 2014; however, Alderson said the rule could be implemented unilaterally in 2015.

"I would think in a short period of time where you try to define the way plays are made at the plate, there might be some glitches in the first year regardless of whatever year you decide to start doing it," Butterfield said. "Too much unknown for me right now, but I'm a baserunning guy [and] that's going to be very important to me.

"It's going to be very irritating. We'll see how it goes."

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