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Catchers get crash course on new rules

Feb 27, 2014, 1:24 PM EST

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VIERA, Fla. — Wilson Ramos, like all major-league catchers, learned at a young age the proper way to block the plate. Where to position himself for a throw coming his way. How to plant his left foot in a spot that gives the runner no clear path. And, yes, how to absorb the impact of a head-on collision.

And now Ramos and his brethren have to unlearn all that to make sure they adhere to Major League Baseball’s just-announced rule change on plays at the plate.

“In my career, I concentrate on doing something,” the Nationals catcher said. “Right now, we have to change a little bit that part of the game. But we have to learn. We have to learn and try to practice that.”

The process began in earnest Thursday morning when Ramos joined teammates Jose Lobaton, Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano for a crash course on playing within the new rules, with bench coach Randy Knorr and third base coach Bobby Henley (both former catchers) instructing.

The key rule change: Catchers may no longer impede a runner’s clear path to the plate unless they’re already in possession of the ball. If they do, umpires may choose to call the runner safe. Runners, meanwhile, are no longer allowed to egregiously run into a catcher.

Knorr and Henley spent a good 20 minutes with the Nationals’ catching corps before Thursday’s workout, showing them exactly what is and isn’t allowed. They also began to teach them to position themselves in a different spot while waiting for a throw to come in, leaving the plate unblocked.

“We’re trying to simplify it and not go into a lot of detail on it,” Knorr said. “Show them the proper line and establish it right away.”

Extra instruction or not, the Nationals’ catchers know they’re going to have to fight their natural instincts once the situation arises in a game.

“If it happens, it happens,” Ramos said. “I want to work on that, stay out of the runner’s line, but during the games you don’t have time to think in that situation because sometimes you don’t have time to react. So sometimes with the ball, you don’t know where the ball is coming from. If the throw’s in the runner’s line, you have to catch it. But we have to be ready to get hit all the time.”

Knorr, like many other old-school catchers, wasn’t thrilled to learn of the proposed rule change this winter, but he understands it was made in an attempt to protect players from severe head and leg injuries.

He also knows it could have a significant effect on some of baseball’s most-significant plays.

“I will say this: There will be more outs at home plate,” Knore said. “Because there’s not that thought anymore that the guy’s going to hit you. They’re going to be able to receive the ball and make the tag without worrying about that.”

  1. tcostant - Feb 27, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    I’m for this rule. Maybe Ramos won’t drop balls thrown from the OF, if he knows he won’t get hit.

    • natinalsgo - Feb 27, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      Oh get off of it. Put up stats to say he’s worse than any other catcher at receiving throws. You write this at every chance you get.

      • tcostant - Feb 27, 2014 at 3:05 PM

        I watched a lot of baseball in my lifetime. I know what I see. I don’t know of any site that tracks this, but I know what I see.

        As I’ve said before, this was his major flaw, so the fact that this rule will manage that is good IMO.

        While I say this, I also think Ramos should hit closer to the middle of the order.

      • nats128 - Feb 27, 2014 at 8:16 PM

        I think we all watch alot of baseball. I agree with David and the group below.

  2. natinalsgo - Feb 27, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    The contact play now gives a distinct advantage to the base runner and an advantage on suicide squeezes that rely on bang bang plays with the catcher blocking the plate before the ball arrives.

    I think now the catcher has to receive the ball away from the plate and dive into the runner to make the tag unless there’s a better strategy out there

  3. lphboston - Feb 27, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    As a catcher in high school and college, coaches taught me the same way — if you have the ball, you can block the plate. If not, you can position yourself so the runner has at least a part of the plate available to him. Just don’t block the plate without the ball.

    This is a good rule, BUT…oftentimes the ball and the runner get to the plate at the same time, and that’s where arguments will occur.

    • janetfroet - Feb 27, 2014 at 2:49 PM

      Agreed. I caught thru college as well and these were basically my thoughts. I’ve tagged guys out bang-bang as ball and runner arrive almost simultaneously and my left leg saved the run. So I guess now if someone does that it’s wholly in the umpires discretion whether or not the ball or runner arrived first? Personally, I enjoyed being run over. I knew how to absorb the hit, and I took a couple hard ones, and no one was worse for the wear. Of course I played D-III ball so we didn’t have too many guys that were 6’4 230lbs barreling down the line.

      • janetfroet - Feb 27, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        Good gracious. Just noticed this site uses WordPress. This username is not me. Signed into a work account, FYI. Too funny.

      • NatsLady - Feb 27, 2014 at 8:24 PM

        So, at work you are “Janet”? OK, then.

      • natinalsgo - Feb 27, 2014 at 4:19 PM

        Janet, I was still buying that you were a DIII catcher.

      • Section 222 - Feb 27, 2014 at 5:22 PM

        Don’t call me Shirley. Or Janet.

      • Lipty - Feb 27, 2014 at 6:29 PM

        Y doesn’t Ramos hit in middle of order? I’d prefer he hit cleanup:

        Span
        Rendon
        Werth
        Ramos
        Harper
        Zimm
        Desmond
        Roach

  4. Theophilus T.S. - Feb 27, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    One of the things Ramos was supposed to be learning from I. Rodriguez was how to receive the ball and swipe-tag the runner w/out getting creamed. Rodriguez was very good at it, which probably accounts for surviving 20-some years as a major league catcher. Last year it looked like Ramos needed remedial work.

    • David Proctor - Feb 27, 2014 at 2:10 PM

      Ramos didn’t drop a single outfield throw last year. There was one that he bobbled, but it was a very high throw that he had to leap into the air to catch.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 27, 2014 at 2:13 PM

        wow, you remember all that or are you looking somewhere at some stat site?

      • natinalsgo - Feb 27, 2014 at 2:22 PM

        That was my recollection from last year. He caught grief even on that play

        Old negative labels die hard

      • nats106 - Feb 27, 2014 at 4:09 PM

        Yeah, I think that’s true. Tcostant, you, I and others saw that in 2011 and 2012 (before he got hurt) but I agree with DP-he handled OF throws very well last year. Maybe because he wasn’t catching 380 foot bullets from the likes of Ankiel.

  5. natinalsgo - Feb 27, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Good interview with Mark Zuckerman on the Doc Walker show.

    Matt Williams is riding the bus with the players and the vets who aren’t playing are going.

  6. unkyd59 - Feb 27, 2014 at 9:00 PM

    Is it naughty of me to notice the double-etendre in the last two sentences of “Janet’s” first post…?

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