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New drill simulates game action

MLB introduces new sliding, pace initiatives
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss' background as a youth and high school football coach had him wondering how to replicate game speed in baseball practice. The result was the "Win the Inning" drill that he unveiled in a test-market fashion during Thursday's first full-squad Spring Training workout.

It was a rapid-fire succession of offense vs. defense innings. Catching and defensive positioning coach Rene Lachemann served as the plate umpire, who would accelerate a count -- say, 2-1 after the first pitch. Minor League pitching coordinator Doug Linton threw fastballs and offspeed pitches from behind a screen set up in front of the pitcher's mound, to simulate the ball getting to the hitter faster. The idea was to think and execute offensively and defensively.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss' background as a youth and high school football coach had him wondering how to replicate game speed in baseball practice. The result was the "Win the Inning" drill that he unveiled in a test-market fashion during Thursday's first full-squad Spring Training workout.

It was a rapid-fire succession of offense vs. defense innings. Catching and defensive positioning coach Rene Lachemann served as the plate umpire, who would accelerate a count -- say, 2-1 after the first pitch. Minor League pitching coordinator Doug Linton threw fastballs and offspeed pitches from behind a screen set up in front of the pitcher's mound, to simulate the ball getting to the hitter faster. The idea was to think and execute offensively and defensively.

There were some good moments: Raimel Tapia tripled down the left-field line, and Will Swanner's single to right scored him. Defensively, outfielder Brandon Barnes moved to second base and made a nice play to his left on a Tony Wolters grounder.

Arenado lets glove offer defense of ability

On the flip side, Rafael Ynoa was at second when he took off on a liner to right and was doubled up, and shortstop Trevor Story let a bouncer through the middle tick off his glove for an error.

Weiss said the introduction went well. Players jumped into action after a brief meeting and understood it, and the inning wasn't interrupted by lectures from coaches. There weren't even signs; players coached themselves on bunt or hit-and-run attempts.

Thursday's innings took place without valuable information that will be included in future drills, such as inning and score.

"Typically, we'll start with situations, we just wanted to introduce it to them," Weiss said. "We just wanted to keep it moving, but as we go on we'll put emphasis on it, on game-on-the-line situations."

Tweet from @Rockies: Turn it.#RoxSpring ☀️��⚾️https://t.co/MuqJ0ZFBq6

Second baseman DJ LeMahieu said there is value in forcing players to think at game speed.

"We're going to have a lot of different situations out there and hopefully we're ready for those situations come the season," LeMahieu said. "And defensively, you can take all the fungoes you want, but to get the speed of the ball off the bat is a lot different."

Third baseman Nolan Arenado, however, said the Rockies have to be careful about not forcing everyone to react to situations the same way.

"I'm a different hitter than, say, DJ LeMahieu," Arenado said. "I want him to hit the ball the other way because he knows how to do it. He can do it on inside pitches and I can't. Usually, on inside pitches, I'm going to let it eat. I've got to find ways to get guys in, but I don't believe everyone's on the same execution plan."

Worth noting

• LeMahieu said he'd have voted for half of the rule MLB introduced, which protects middle infielders from late slides -- runners must hit dirt before the bag and be able to reach it and stay on it. But it keeps defenses from stealing outs with the "neighborhood play," when they actually aren't in contact with the bag while receiving a throw on a force play.

"I feel like you can't review the neighborhood play," LeMahieu said. "But then again, it's weird that you can't review something like that when you can review the littlest thing on the slide."

• New slide rule, pace-of-game games adopted

LeMahieu said he didn't think the slide was a huge issue, but the change was understandable given the injuries sustained by the Mets' Ruben Tejada in the postseason and the Pirates' Jung Ho Kang during the regular season. But having to be in contact with the bag when he gets the ball, with no wiggle room, is "gonna need to be a focus, making sure you're on the bag."

• Weiss laughed off the limit of 30 seconds for a coach or manager to make mound visits. Usually, pitching coach Steve Foster makes those informational visits. Weiss usually goes out to make a pitching change.

"We're gonna see some pitching coaches trying to get in shape," Weiss said. "Fostie has a pretty good gait. He always jogs out there. He won't have to make many adjustments."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com.

 

Colorado Rockies, Nolan Arenado, Brandon Barnes, DJ LeMahieu, Trevor Story, Will Swanner, Tony Wolters, Rafael Ynoa