VIERA, Fla. - Full-squad workouts will get slightly more interesting starting today, as live batting practice sessions will start this morning out on the back fields by the Nationals’ minor league complex.
For those who are unaware, live batting practice is when an actual pitcher is throwing to actual hitters, although there is an L-screen in front of the pitcher and the hitters often spend the first couple live BP sessions just looking at the pitches go by them.
Hitters call that tracking pitches, and many of them prefer to do this early in live BP sessions, just getting a feel for the speed and movement that big league pitchers bring at them. It’s been a long offseason, and so some guys ease into things in spring instead of taking monster cuts off live arms right out of the gates.
Jayson Werth is one Nationals hitter who likes tracking pitches during his early live BPs.
Among the Nats hitters to step in during live BP today will be Ian Desmond, Anthony Rendon, Danny Espinosa and Jamey Carroll. Two catchers will also participate in live BP, but those two were not specified on this morning’s schedule.
Ross Detwiler will be one of the pitchers to throw to at least a few of the hitters listed above, but that’s all I know as far as the list of hurlers.
Meanwhile, major league teams continue to wait to see whether a rule banning home plate collisions will be passed by the Major League Baseball Players Association.
The league approved the ban in December after a vote among the 30 teams, and if the MLBPA follows suit, the rule could be instituted before spring training games get under way.
Nationals manager Matt Williams got an email saying that the MLBPA vote should be happening any day now, and the Nats expect to hear something one way or another shortly. Until then, they’ll continue coaching their catchers as if the current rules will remain in place, but the coaching staff will be ready to adjust if and when they need to.
“So far, we have assumed there will be no change,” Williams said. “Randy (Knorr is) taking them through all their prep work under the assumption that it’s all the same as it has been. And then we’ll adjust once we get final confirmation on it.
“We don’t know what changes will be made, if any. So we’ll wait for that and make sure we cross it when we get there. Right now we’re just making sure their fundamentals are sound. We’ll deal with it when we know.”
It’s unclear exactly what changes will be made to the current rules should the MLBPA indeed vote in favor of the proposal, but runners will likely be required to slide if there is a play at the plate, instead of being able to run over catchers. It’s also quite possible that catchers will no longer be allowed to set up in the baseline when not in possession of the ball or in the act of receiving the ball.
The goal here is to cut down on the injuries that have resulted from home plate collisions, especially concussions. Nationals minor league catcher Brian Jeroloman sustained a concussion as a result of a home plate collision during the Eastern League playoffs last season and while he recently passed concussion tests, he still hasn’t returned to team drills at this point.
“I’m a little bit excited with that rule, because it’s good for us, for all the catchers,” Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos said. “It’s hard when we get collisions. We can get hurt, we can get injured. So that’s a very good rule for us, because we want to play safe and stay healthy.
“Especially, I get knee surgery, so it’s good for me and for everybody here. But we have to wait. We have to wait for that. Hopefully they put that rule (in) and now we wait and see what happens.”
While concussions among catchers might decrease if home plate collisions are banned, there’s a concern that leg and knee injuries might actually become more prevalent. If catchers are not allowed to block the plate and are forced to set up further toward the mound, they will likely need to lunge toward runners and will not have a solid base beneath them when attempting to make tags. That could, theoretically, make it easier for a player sliding into home to inadvertently take out a catcher’s leg.
There’s also the issue of what happens when a throw to the plate isn’t on-target. If the throw takes the catcher into the baseline, is he allowed to pursue the ball? Are collisions allowed in those type of situations? We still don’t know at this point.
“It’s different,” Ramos said. “We have to see what happens out there, because sometimes it’s (a) bang-bang play and we don’t have any second (to) think. We just have to receive the ball and see what happens. When standing at the plate, we have to stay on the line, we have to let the runner see the home plate and let them have an opportunity to slide, but sometimes the throw is in the runner’s line, and we have to wait for the hit.
“If they hit us, it happens. If we’ve got opportunity to move before we get hit, it’s good. But we don’t know when the throw is in the runner’s line. But we have to be smart.”