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Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Not all catchers favor proposed rule

By Jayson Stark
ESPN.com

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Even as baseball officials are finalizing a new rule designed to protect catchers from home plate collisions, they are hearing dissent from a group they didn't originally expect: catchers themselves.

In the Toronto Blue Jays' camp Wednesday morning, catcher Dioner Navarro made it clear he wasn't a proponent of the rule, even though he was carried off the field on a stretcher as recently as August following a collision with the Philadelphia Phillies' Chase Utley. When the conversation turned to the new rule, which is expected to be made official shortly, Navarro replied, succinctly: "I don't care. We're still going to get crushed."

Asked why he felt that way, despite a rule that is specifically intended to prevent catchers from getting crushed, Navarro said: "Because it's been like that for over 100 years."

Blue Jays backup Erik Kratz was even more outspoken, saying catchers who still want to block the plate to prevent a big run should be allowed to do so.

Scott Cousins, Buster Posey
All-Star Giants catcher Buster Posey was lost for much of the 2011 season after being run over by the Marlins' Scott Cousins on a play at the plate in May.

"If you're a guy who wants to stay in there and save a run, why can't you?" Kratz asked. "Why would they take that advantage away from somebody who's willing to get hurt?

"Look, I get it," Kratz continued. "I get why they're doing this. I've been fortunate. I've never had a bad injury like [Buster Posey]. ... If I'd lost a season because of this, I'd probably be all for it. But I haven't experienced that."

Kratz and Navarro said they're worried about issues arising that can't be helped in the course of a game that result in inadvertent collisions. And they're not certain what catchers are supposed to do to prevent those issues.

"What happens if a catcher sticks his leg out to block the plate?" Kratz said. "If somebody's catching a throw and they're giving [the runner] the plate but then they stick their leg out, go down and tag the guy out, is that illegal?

"You see second basemen do that all the time -- block the bag with their leg when they're taking a throw. I've seen Chase Utley do that. If that guy is willing to put his leg out like this [kneels down on one knee] ... when the runner is sliding in headfirst, what's the difference [other than] we have equipment?"

Navarro and Kratz also said they're not in favor of a rule that would force all plays at the plate to result in swipe tags.

"What if you're not good at swipe tags?" Kratz asked.

Added Navarro: "A lot of guys have never done that before."

"So why not just do it like the NFL?" Kratz said. "If the commissioner rules it's a vicious hit, fine him. But this is not the NFL."

Kratz said he hopes that, once it is implemented, baseball officials will be open to adjusting the rule if there are glitches, much as they've promised to do with new replay rules.

"As long as they're willing to adjust it, I'm OK with it," he said. "I just think there's too much gray area."