As new rule nears, Angels practice defending plate
Iannetta, Conger working on ways to balance good defense and safety at home
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels aren't alone in waiting for Major League Baseball to establish and make known the guidelines for the proposed rule change that will curb collisions at home plate between baserunners and catchers, therefore reducing injuries from such a play.
But they are having their catchers practice making sure the runner has a lane to reach home plate in Spring Training workouts.
"There's some guidelines we're working with right now that have not been taken to the level of making it a rule," manager Mike Scioscia, a former catcher, said. "So I think there's still some things that might filter in through Spring Training. But we're practicing it along these guidelines of really making sure a runner has a lane."
Scioscia doesn't think it will be as complicated to change a catcher's position for a play at the plate as could be the wording of the new rule. He's hoping that when MLB officials come to Arizona to meet with the teams next week, there will be finalization of the new rule and it can be explained.
Scioscia says any new rule will take away aggressiveness from the runner and the catcher.
"It's understood that there's going to be contact on some plays," he said. "But I think if you measure the intent and measure what the play is, you should be able to come up with a call."
Emphasizing that no rule has been set, Scioscia explained that the way he understands it, a runner will be able to slide through the catcher. But he still has questions.
"If the catcher has to give you a lane, why would you have to slide through him?" Scioscia asked. "Now, if there's plays that lead to some incidental contact, those have to be outlined to what's acceptable and what isn't."
Angels catchers Hank Conger and Chris Iannetta shared their thoughts on the proposed rule and what they're doing in practice.
"For now, we just can't block the plate," Conger said. "We just have to make sure we put ourselves in a good position and just try to make a tag and get out of there."
Conger is glad to see a rule that helps protect catchers, while Iannetta is more in favor of keeping things status quo.
"But if this works out and it helps protect the players, that would be a good thing," Iannetta said. "I didn't really see the necessity to make too many adjustments."
Said Conger: "I actually do like, though, that they're trying to make it more safe. You're taking a throw from out in the field and all of a sudden, you're getting blindsided. You can get seriously injured."
The Angels' catchers are being proactive while waiting for a rule to be put into place. Conger is reminded of his high school days when catchers weren't allowed to block the plate and runners couldn't run into the catcher.
"Now all the parameters in between that are trying to be defined," he said.
Neither catcher is frustrated with what might happen, and it seems like they accept change is coming.
"I think it'll be fine. The bottom line is either you take the plate away or you don't," Iannetta said. "Before it was the catcher's option to block the plate or stick your nose in there and get hit ... now you take the decision making out of it. You have to give the runner a clear running line and apply the tag."
Jose M. Romero is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.