LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers have spent Spring Training preparing for limits on mound visits during the game, trying to watch how many times catchers head out to talk to pitchers. Come Thursday, the games count in the standings, and each visit to the mound without a pitching change counts
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers have spent Spring Training preparing for limits on mound visits during the game, trying to watch how many times catchers head out to talk to pitchers. Come Thursday, the games count in the standings, and each visit to the mound without a pitching change counts toward the limit of six in a nine-inning contest.
Just how prepared they are for it depends on who's asked.
"That's not an exact art right now," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Right now, we're telling them just don't go out there until you get later in the game. And it's probably better [then a] catcher running out there two times for one inning for the same pitcher. So we're just letting them do it themselves."
Tigers catchers, and at least a few pitchers, seem confident that they have it under control.
The biggest question many catchers and pitchers had when the new rules were announced early in Spring Training was how they would handle signs, especially with a runner at second base, and how they could reliably change signs without the luxury of the catcher visiting the pitcher. Essentially, catcher and pitcher have to have a set of signs they can use and signals to relay when to change them without easily getting read by an opponent.
"We have a system in place," said closer Shane Greene, whose work often entails entering games with a runner on base.
Neither Greene nor catcher John Hicks will go into the details, of course, but they made it clear it's something they've been working on during camp.
If Gardenhire has his preference, the Tigers will have conserved their visits and have some ready for late-game scenarios in case a mixup happens.
"Once the season starts, we know there's going to be times we have to go out there," Gardenhire said, "but you have to pay attention. You can't run out there. We tell our players. When they start walking in, we stand up and scream. If [catchers] go out and say, 'Hey, get the ball down,' that can be a trip.
"There's a lot to it, and there's going to be some umpires that do it one way and some umpires do it another, and we're just going to have to figure out the ones that we can deal with and who you can go out and ask if he's OK."
There remains a gray area on some potential issues Gardenhire says they'll have to learn as they go along. Gardenhire did his best to figure out some of those during the Grapefruit League schedule, asking umpires whether a situation would have counted as a visit. But the end goal of improving pace of play is one that Gardenhire supports.
"Baseball's done the best they can to try to get this thing straight," Gardenhire said. "It's all about pace of the game, and we've got that. Our catchers aren't going to be able to run out there and pitchers are going to have to figure it out."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.