Baseball / Sports

Dodgers' catchers says collisions part of the gig

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The job of a major league catcher might get a little less dangerous this season -- but Dodgers catchers don't sound too happy about it.

"I don't like it. I don't like it at all," Tim Federowicz said of the rule banning home-plate collisions that is expected to go into effect this season. "I mean, it's a run. That could be the difference in winning or losing.

"What's going to happen if it's a tie game in the last game of the World Series or a playoff game? Are they just going to call that guy safe?"

The proposed rule would ban baserunners from crashing into catchers in an attempt to dislodge the ball -- and forbid catchers from blocking the plate. The rule is expected to mandate that runners must slide or be automatically called out.

MLB's Playing Rules Committee -- including former Dodgers manager, and former catcher, Joe Torre -- approved a resolution to ban home-plate collisions at the winter meetings. The new rule is expected to be voted on soon.

"I appreciate that Major League Baseball is taking steps to make the game safer for players at my position," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. "At the same time, I don't like the fact that they're taking away a potentially game-changing play for players at my position."

Ellis, Federowicz and fellow catcher Drew Butera all played in college, where rules have limited contact on plays at the plate for some time. But Butera said putting your body on the line to block the plate and prevent a run is "part of your duties as a catcher."

"That's the way we were brought up, watching guys like (Mike) Scioscia or Pudge (Carlton Fisk) block the plate," said Butera, whose father Sal spent nine seasons in the big leagues as a catcher. "I understand they're trying to protect us from injuries. ... But I don't think you'll get too many catchers say they don't want to protect the plate."

In fact, the players' union organized a group text conversation to discuss the change during the offseason and none of the catchers involved was in favor of the rule, Federowicz said.

"I just think they're being a little too careful," he said.

The prospect of banning home-plate collisions became a prominent topic after San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey broke his ankle on a play at the plate in 2011. The rules change is also motivated by the growing concern over concussions in football -- and the $765 million settlement the NFL reached with former players suing over the league's handling of concussion injuries.

Ellis admits he has emerged from home-plate collisions feeling "scattered over home plate" for a few seconds and acknowledges those were probably mild concussions. But he pointed out catchers are far more vulnerable to suffering a concussion from a foul tip to the mask than they are on the far less-frequent collisions with baserunners.

"I've always been more concerned about orthopedic injuries on those (collisions)," Ellis said, "a knee injury or a Buster Posey-type thing."

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he and his coaching staff have read the literature and watched the video distributed by MLB this offseason but are reserving any instruction to their players on how to adjust until they have seen the final version of the rule. Mattingly said it's the same approach he is taking with the replay-challenge rule being added this season. MLB representatives are scheduled to be in camp to brief the Dodgers on the replay rule Tuesday.

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