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Catchers practice as usual, awaiting rule changes

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Like many teams, the Tigers are awaiting word from Major League Baseball on any rule changes regarding home-plate collisions. At the same time, they have a Spring Training camp to conduct, including catcher drills on throws home and run-downs.

That puts new manager Brad Ausmus and instructors in a bit of a bind.

"Right now, it's business as usual until we get something different from Major League Baseball," Ausmus said Thursday. "There's no guarantee that there's going to be an actual rule change at this point.

"We've already gone over it once as far as practicing plays at the plate. You just have to treat it like it has been for decades."

Ausmus isn't suggesting that no rules change will come down. The longer it takes, though, the less time there is for teams and their catchers to change their practice before the season starts.

"On March 29, you can't say, 'All right, there's no contact at the plate, and the catcher has to be in fair territory when he receives the ball,'" Ausmus said. "There has to be a tipping point where Major League Baseball just says, 'We have to wait another year for this.'"

Reports have suggested a decision could be imminent, but those reports have lingered.

Ausmus has his opinions on it. He supports the push for catcher safety, but worries about limiting contact altogether.

"I like the intent, I do," he said, "but I hope they don't turn home plate into just another base. … I don't know what's going to happen, but if they do eliminate contact at home plate, what happens to the takeout slide at second base? You would have to, I think, eliminate contact at every base."

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.
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