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Tuesday, February 25, 2014
McCann: New rules will help -- maybe

By Wallace Matthews

TAMPA, Fla. -- Brian McCann remembers -- barely -- the play that KO'ed him in 2008, a home plate collision caused by a runner's knee impacting with his head as he dove across the plate trying to make a tag.

Under baseball's new rules reducing, if not quite eliminating, home plate collisions, McCann might not have suffered that concussion, and he hopes, whatever concussions may have awaited him in the future.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction," McCann said. "For catchers, it’s that throw from right field that you’re in no-man’s land. You can’t see the runner. You don’t know if he’s going to slide or run you over.”

In an effort to educate their catchers, someone taped a copy of a newspaper story explaining the new rules, with the pertinent portions highlighted in yellow, to the wall in the clubhouse where the catchers dress.

"I gotta read that to find out what exactly is the rule," said Francisco Cervelli.

It was unclear whether the new rules would have actually saved McCann -- a runner is now required to "not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate," and a catcher is not allowed to block the plate without the ball, but there is no specific rule prohibiting a runner from scoring standing up nor a catcher diving across home plate -- but both he and Cervelli agreed it could eliminate some of the injuries suffered on those type of plays.

"I think it could take care of the catchers a little bit, and maybe the runners too," Cervelli said. "I got killed a couple of times, so it feels very good."

Cervelli, who suffered a broken arm in a home-plate collision with Elliott Johnson in spring training 2008, admitted it might take some re-training to learn to play by the new rules. "The way I learn[ed] in [the] Dominican was [home plate] is my house and I gotta take care of my house," he said. "But obviously you gotta adapt to the new rules, and if it happen[ed] to me it can happen to anybody. After that collision and some other ones, I always say I gotta take care of myself a little more."

“It's kind of the same rule we've always had," McCann said. "If you don’t have the ball, you can’t be in front of the plate. I don’t know if it’s going to change a whole lot. And then once the play starts, your instincts take over and you know what you have to do to prevent the run."