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Cardinals infielders, staff react to rule changes

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

JUPITER, Fla. -- As part of a joint initiative to improve player safety, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players' Association have redefined what is considered a legal slide when trying to break up a double play. The changes were met with varying reaction around the Cardinals' clubhouse, though most were in agreement that it is best to refrain from judgement until the rule changes are further clarified.

Under the new Rule 6.01(j), a runner is required to make a "bona fide slide," which includes making contact with the ground before the base, being able to reach the base and being able to attempt to remain on it at the completion of the slide. Runners are no longer permitted to change their path for the purpose of making contact with a middle infielder, nor will they be allowed to intentionally initiate contact.

JUPITER, Fla. -- As part of a joint initiative to improve player safety, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players' Association have redefined what is considered a legal slide when trying to break up a double play. The changes were met with varying reaction around the Cardinals' clubhouse, though most were in agreement that it is best to refrain from judgement until the rule changes are further clarified.

Under the new Rule 6.01(j), a runner is required to make a "bona fide slide," which includes making contact with the ground before the base, being able to reach the base and being able to attempt to remain on it at the completion of the slide. Runners are no longer permitted to change their path for the purpose of making contact with a middle infielder, nor will they be allowed to intentionally initiate contact.

Violating the rule will result in the runner and batter being called out for interference.

The changes also will allow for the "neighborhood play" -- used to describe a play in which the middle infielder straddles the base or glides past it while trying to turn a double play -- to be reviewed. This makes it imperative that middle infielders receive the ball while on the bag, but it also, some players say, will make them susceptible to take-out slides.

"This neighborhood play is going to have us thinking the whole time that we're going to be taken out," second baseman Kolten Wong said. "You don't want to get hurt and you don't want to put yourself in any kind of danger. It's going to be tough. ... This is our livelihood."

The debate about whether there should be changes made heightened after the Dodgers' Chase Utley broke up a potential double play in a National League Division Series game, and in the process, injured Mets infielder Ruben Tejada, who missed the rest of the postseason with a broken leg.

"Being a middle infielder, it just comes with the territory," said Cardinals infielder Greg Garcia. "Guys are going to come after you. I enjoy when guys come in hard. I think it's a good part of the game. Whatever keeps guys on the field is great, but I hope it doesn't take away from playing hard-nosed baseball."

The Cardinals should get some rules clarification as early as Saturday, when chief baseball officer Joe Torre and other MLB representatives visit camp to meet with manager Mike Matheny, general manager John Mozeliak and other select staff members. The Cardinals do not, however, anticipate making changes in how they teach their infielders to approach such plays.

"They know they have to touch the bag no matter what," infield coach Jose Oquendo said. "I don't want them thinking about runners. I don't want them thinking about getting hit. I just want them catching and turning the double play and getting out of there."

MLB also announced an update to its pace-of-play procedures, requiring that mound visits by managers and coaches be limited to 30 seconds. The timer will begin when the manager or coach exits the dugout.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast.

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