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Astros' Castro favors eliminating plate collisions

HOUSTON -- Jason Castro took a one-hop throw from teammate Carlos Lee, who had corralled a popup in foul territory down the right-field line, and turned to apply the tag at the plate on charging Brewers infielder Mat Gamel, who barreled into the catcher and flipped him back.

A dazed Castro held onto the ball for the out and stayed in the game after trainers checked him out, but he wound up missing a couple of games with a sore shoulder. The worst collision of Castro's Major League career will likely be his last.

With Major League Baseball taking steps to outlaw collisions at the plate, Castro applauded the move and said the safety of the players should be the top priority.

"I think it will end up being a good thing for baseball," he said. "I mean, it's been a part of the game for a long time, but I feel that it will really serve to protect the players, and I don't think it will really impact games like the opponents of changing the rule would think.

"I think it will actually do the reverse and keep guys on the field and only help improve the team's performance over the long run. The last thing that anyone wants on a play at the plate for one run is to have a guy get hurt and miss significant playing time. I think that's the one thing that will really benefit from the change in the rules."

Castro has missed significant time in his brief career, the result of a major knee injury suffered while stepping awkwardly on first base in Spring Training in 2010. He's had a couple of knee procedures since, but he's never been seriously injured in a home-plate collision like San Francisco's Buster Posey was later that year.

The Giants' All-Star catcher's season ended when he suffered a broken bone in his lower left leg and three torn ligaments in his ankle as the result of home-plate collision with Florida's Scott Cousins. If the rule change passes, catchers would have to settle for tagging a runner as he approaches the plate instead of trying to block the plate.

The decision to eliminate collisions didn't become a serious topic of conversation until last month at the General Managers Meetings, but the idea quickly caught fire. Managers Mike Matheny of the Cardinals and Bruce Bochy of the Giants, both former catchers, led the push.

The exact language of the new rule has not been written. The final draft will be approved by the Rules Committee and then submitted for a vote at the next quarterly Owners Meetings in January. Finally, it must be approved by the Major League Baseball Players Association.

"It will be interesting to see if that's part of the rule, that you have to allow the runner some opportunity to score," said Castro, who's the Astros' representative to the MLBPA. "Otherwise, you can literally sit right in front of the plate and block the whole thing. Just like you can't completely block any of the bases other than home -- you can't take away the runners' opportunity to advance if he has it."

Castro says what he's been taught is to show the runner that he's got a path to the plate so he goes in intending to slide and not take out the catcher, and as soon as Castro has the ball, collapse on that lane and take it away.

He says the threat of a collision tends to make catchers focus on the relay throw to the plate and puts a priority on throwing to another base to get an out, depending on the situation. Now, he says, there's more incentive to sit at home plate and wait for the ball.

"You can hang out at the plate no matter where the runner may be, and you feel a little more comfortable back there," he said. "It will definitely allow guys to kind of stay in on bad hops and try to make a play. I think for the most part, guys, catchers, allow somewhat of a lane for the runner to take to try to score, and we'll see how that develops, if that starts to go away and guys feel that now that collisions aren't allowed, catchers start to take away the whole plate, and how that plays out, and what the runner is entitled to."

While the nuances of the rule, including the penalties for initiating a collision, still have to be worked out, Castro takes comfort in knowing he'll never have another encounter with a runner like he did with Gamel in Milwaukee in 2012.

"I feel like I got pretty lucky," he said. "I watched the replay on that one in particular, and my body kind of got out of its own way, luckily, or else it could have been a lot worse. Obviously, everyone is familiar with the Posey incident. That's kind of the reason why I think the rule needs to be changed, is instances like that."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros, Jason Castro