Saturday, February 21, 2015

MLB introduces new pace of play rules and replay modifications

Major league baseball announced some new pace of play changes to take place starting this season and also replay modifications.  The changes will be mostly about in between innings and batters not being allowed to step out unless they have one of several excuses that are allowed.  MLB will be implementing clocks above the stadiums to count down in between innings and they want everyone to be ready to go once the game comes back from commercial break. 

The batter needs to keep one foot in the box at all times unless he has one of a few allowed excuses.  The umpires need to enforce these rules and it will also be done by  a warning and fine system.  Immediately following the third out of each half inning a clock will count down from 2:25 for locally televised games and 2:45 from nationally televised games.  A MLB representative attending each game will operate the timers from the ballpark and will track the following:

40 seconds-PA announces batter and begins to play the walk up music

30 seconds-Pitcher throws his final warm up pitch

25 seconds-Batters walk up music ends

20 seconds-5 seconds-Batter enters the batter box

20 seconds to 0 seconds-pitcher begins motion to deliver pitch

Pitchers will be permitted to throw as many warm up pitches as they wish prior to the point when 30 seconds remain.  Pitchers however will be deemed to have forfeited any of their traditional eight warm up pitches that they are unable to complete prior to the 30 second deadline.  Exceptions to these rules will be made in a variety of circumstances including if the pitcher or catcher ended the prior half inning at bat or on base. 

Batters will be encouraged to get into the batter's box with 20 seconds remaining on the timer.  This is the same time that the broadcasters return from commercial.  The pitcher is expected to begin his motion to deliver the pitch as soon as the batter gets into the batter's box. and becomes alert to the pitcher.  Batters who do not enter the box prior to five seconds remaining on the timer and pitchers who do not begin the motion to deliver the pitch prior to zero seconds remaining on the timer will be deemed to have violated the break timing rules. 

Discipline will result for flagrant violators but no fines will be issued in Spring Training or April of 2015.  Donations will be made to the Major League Baseball Players Trust charitable foundation based on the level of adherence to the new rules. 

Instant replay changes: Managers may now invoke instant replay from the dugout and will no longer be required to approach the calling umpire to challenge a call.  Managers may hold play from the top step of the dugout by signaling to players and the home plate umpire that he is considering a challenge.  A decision can be communicated verbally or with a hand signal.  To challenge an inning ending call, managers will be required to leave the dugout immediately in order to hold the defensive team on the field. 

Whether a runner left the base early or properly touched a base on a tag up play will be reviewable. 

A manager will retain his challenge after every call that is overturned.  Last year, a manager retained his challenge only after the first overturned call. 

A manager must use a challenge in order to review whether a play at home plate included a violation of the rule governing home plate collisions.  However, in the event that a manager is out of challenges after the start of the seventh inning, the Crew Chief may still choose to review whether there was a violation of the rule. 

During postseason games, regular season tiebreaker games and the All-Star game, managers will now have two challenges per game. 

Instant replay will not be utilized during 2015 Spring Training, but it will be in place for exhibition games at Major League ballparks prior to the start of the 2015 regular season. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

The New York Mets opened camp yesterday and today their GM held a press conference

Sandy Alderson held the annual state of the team address this morning.  He was filling in for manager Terry Collins who is away due to the death of his father.  Here are some of the highlights of what Alderson had to say and then some other Mets notes courtesy of Matthew Cerrone at 

Matt Harvey will begin throwing to live batters soon.  He will conceivably throw 200 innings this season if the Mets make the playoffs.  Alderson did not say specifically if the Mets have a hard innings limit for the regular season.  He did say that they will make sure he pitches in the playoffs if they make it. 

David Wright is not experiencing any pain in his shoulder and is in great shape.  His shoulder was a big problem last year and the Mets need him to bounce back.  Alderson does not anticipate making any moves this spring and doesn't see the Mets using a six man rotation even though they have six starters and really they have eight or nine guys in camp who could all possibly start.  Rafael Montero is a candidate for the bullpen but not Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. 

The Mets may end up carrying two long relievers instead of having two lefty relievers.  They could have Dillon Gee and Carlos Torres for long relief.  Kevin Plawecki who is a catching prospect could see some time at 1B in AAA.  They want him to get more time in AAA but said that he is close to ready for the majors.  Alderson said he was never interested in giving more than a minor league deal to a left- handed reliever this winter.   Bobby Parnell is expected to return from the DL in late April but that depends on how he rehabs in Spring Training. 

Wilmer Flores talked on Friday and said that he appreciates the confidence shown in him by Alderson.  He enjoyed learning other positions on the field because you never know where you might end up.  He said he has a lot to prove this season and the only way to do it is by working hard.  He believes the Mets have the ability and potential to make it to the postseason this season.  The Mets first official workout is tomorrow morning. 

Yankees pitchers and catchers report and first workout is on tap

The Yankees pitchers and catchers reported on Friday, their first official workout is Saturday.  Joe Girardi held his annual state of the team and opening of camp press conference this morning.  Here are some of what he talked about and then some notes courtesy of the Lohud Yankees Blog. 

The two biggest topics for Joe during the press conference were Alex Rodriguez and Masahiro Tanaka.  He was asked about the batting order and said that is something they need to figure out but he expects that Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner will pretty much be in the same spot all year unlike last year where they were moved around.  He says the last two weeks of camp are important and that will determine a lot about the batting order. 

He spoke about the health of the rotation and admitting that he has concerns.  He says right now CC and Tanaka are healthy but until you get CC out there every fifth day and making three or four starts in a row you don't know how his knee is going to feel and respond.  He says with Tanaka you just don't know, there are some guys who have had what he has and gotten through it for a long period of time and then there are others who haven't been able to make it and end up getting Tommy John.  He says they are the biggest concerns right now but as of right now they feel good and look good. 

The six man rotation is something the Yankees will talk about but they won't do it for a whole year.  He said it is something they may do when they are in a long stretch for instance of 17 or 18 games in a row which they will have in April and May.  Do they have enough time to get Arod ready??  He said he thinks they will and because he is mostly going to be a DH he will get a lot of at bats, he said more then he would normally and there may be some days they send him to the minors to get some extra at bats as well.  He said communication is the most important and that he is on the roster but he will have to earn playing time, they haven't seen him for two years basically and they want to see where he is at, he has to prove that he can get playing time. 

There was a twitter question about run prevention being important and Girardi said yes it is and he does feel that it leads to more wins.  He said sometimes it is just as important as run production.  I would say he is right about this and the Yankees drastically improved their defense from last year to this year.  They in my opinion have one guy who is average and that is Carlos Beltran in right field.  I would say everyone else is a plus defender. 

Tanaka met with the media and said he is confident he can make it through the year healthy.  He said that he actually feels better now than he did last year. He said he is confident the elbow is healed and he can get through the season because he is able to throw the ball absolutely fine.  He said he hasn't made any changes in his off season program and won't make any now, Girardi said the same thing. 

Girardi talked a lot about roster competition this year.  He didn't mean for guys making the roster though as much as guys getting playing time and where they all fit in.  They have to figure out if Didi Gregorious can play SS full-time or does he need a platoon partner.  Will Drew play second base every day, will one of the young guys be the starter and him a backup.  How often will Alex Rodriguez be in the lineup and will he play the field and if he does how much??  Who will be the closer or will it be a closer by committee?  There are definitely more questions than usual in this camp. 

Rodriguez is expected to report with the rest of the position players on Wednesday.  Girardi knows it will be crazy for about a week with him and then hopes he can just get back to playing.  He said it is more of a big deal outside of the clubhouse, that with the Yankees it is part of the territory and he will make sure it doesn't stop them from getting their work in and that the team could come together with something like this.  Girardi said that he is very encouraged by Nova's progress from Tommy John surgery and Nova said that he feels good and sounded optimistic.  The Yankees are optimistic about Sabathia as well but Girardi said he needs to see him in a game to really get a sense of what to expect. 

Jose Ramirez said that last year's lat issue has cleared up, he is healthy and already throwing bullpens.  Chase Whitley wife is about to give birth to their first child.  When that happens he will be excused I am sure.  The early arrivals of position players were Carlos Beltran, Chase Headley, Stephen Drew and Garrett Jones.  They were basically just setting up lockers. 

The Yankees will have their team meeting on Saturday morning and then hit the field probably around 11-1130 for the first time as a group this season.  They will of course do that all over when the full squad reports which is next Wednesday but the first full squad workout is on Thursday. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New York Mets spring training preview

The New York Mets open camp on Thursday in Port St. Lucie, Florida.  There is a bunch of optimism after si x straight losing seasons.  I think they and their fans should have some and I believe they will be a winning team but I wouldn't jump to playoffs just yet.  They have a very good group of young pitchers that will lead their team.  They have the NL rookie of the year in Jacob deGrom and Zach Wheeler who continues to get better and of course the return of their outspoken ace Matt Harvey.  Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon figure to round out the rotation but they also still have Dillon Gee on the team.  They also have guys in the minors waiting for their turn in Stephen Matz and Noah Syndergaard.  Their bullpen was rebuilt on the fly last year and consists of some young power arms as well and they get their closer Bobby Parnell back as well.  The Mets pitching is something to watch as it is one of the best staffs in baseball for sure. 

The other question is shortstop, right now it looks like Wilmer Flores will be the starter and they also still have Ruben Tejada on the team.  The Mets were linked to Troy Tulowitski and Ian Desmond in the off-season but nothing materialized.  I wonder how long they will stick with Flores if he isn't cutting it at shortstop, will they revisit trades in May or will they be able to wait until July and then see if they can pull off a big trade??

The Mets offense wasn't very good last year, they have some good bats and signing Michael Cuddyer should help but they need bounce back seasons from David Wright their captain and Curtis Granderson.  If these two veterans produce it will make their lineup a lot better.  Lucas Duda showed a lot last year and they need him to continue it and Travis d'Arnaud started showing the promise he has to go with a good hitter in Daniel Murphy.  The Mets offense will depend on the two veterans though and if they can get back to what they used to be. 

The Mets should have some optimism and their fans as well as camp opens.  I would expect them to be a winning team and fighting for at least a wild card right to the end of the season.  I think if things break right maybe they could even contend for a division title but that is a bit of a jump at this point.  I would expect a better season and something to build off of for the future. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

New York Yankees Spring Training Preview

The New York Yankees begin spring training on Friday February 20, 2015.  It is the official report day for pitchers and catchers and they will hold their first official workout the next day Saturday February 21, 2015.  The Yankees roster is pretty much set with maybe a couple position battles for backup catcher and last spot in the bullpen.  There are definitely some interesting storylines though. 

The biggest story will be of course the return of Alex Rodriguez from a year long suspension for his role in the biogenesis PED scandal.  He has had his meeting with the new commissioner and the Yankees and in the coming days before spring training will meet with the media probably at Yankee Stadium at the request of the Yankees.  The Yankees don't want him to do it in Tampa and be a distraction for spring training.  After all the talking and the questions it will be back to baseball.  Does Alex have anything left?  Can he perform at a high level or any level at all?  If he does make it through spring training and looks pretty good will he be the starting DH, will he bat in the middle of the order?  Will he play any 3B, 1B??  Will he be just a part time player?  As you see there are plenty of on the field questions to be answered. 

Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia.  The questions with these guys are will they be healthy?  Tanaka has a tear in his elbow we know that, the questions is will it hold up with the rehab he has had and the rest like three doctors recommended or will it blow out and he will need to get Tommy John surgery after all??  Pineda is a question because he hasn't been fully healthy in a few years.  When they were healthy last year they were dominant so if they can stay healthy that will be a big plus for the Yankees.  CC Sabathia is getting older and he has a degenerative knee condition.  He has been saying that he feels good and is ready to go but can his body really hold up and pitch a full year and then if it can, how effective will he be?? 

Is Stephen Drew really the second baseman?  Can Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela have a good enough spring and change their minds and make Drew a bench player??  If Drew is the starter was last year just a bad year because of not signing until the summer and not having spring training etc?  This could be the most interesting part of spring or the season.  If Drew struggles how quick will they pull the trigger on him and bring up one of the kids to take over, Pirela may make the team as a utility guy also. 

Can Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann get back to being very good middle of the order hitters and run producers.  McCann showed some life in September and the Yankees hope that will carry over.  They will give him the first year grace period and expect him to be better this year but are Beltran and Teixeira just shells of themselves or can they bounce back from injury and ineffectiveness.  They were both pretty good early last year until Beltran fell over a wall in Tampa Bay and his elbow bothered him the rest of the season and now Teixeira is another full year away from that wrist surgery.  He was pretty good the first half of last year and then just terrible in the second half last year.  It figures to be a very busy as usual camp but different in the fact that there are no Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera etc and there is Alex Rodriguez and a bunch of new faces to go with the aging veterans.  There will be a lot of focus in camp also of the young kids that appear to be the future and are getting their first tastes of big league camp.  It figures to be a fun and hectic six weeks before the season opens. 

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