2/24/2014 4:30 P.M. ET
New rule to bring adjustments for Lucroy, Maldonado
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- The Brewers' primary catchers did not wait for Major League Baseball's official announcement Monday to begin preparing for changes to the rule regarding home-plate collisions. Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado spent part of Sunday working on swipe tags with Brewers catching coordinator Charlie Greene, bench coach Jerry Narron and Triple-A manager Rick Sweet.
Their verdict? This is going to take some getting used to.
"Swipe tags are hard," said Maldonado, a superior defensive catcher. "Really hard in catcher's gear."
MLB announced the new rules while the Brewers were still on the fields at Maryvale Baseball Park. In essence, a runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher or other player covering home plate, and unless the catcher or another player is in possession of the ball, he can no longer block the pathway of a runner attempting to score.
The rule will be implemented on an experimental basis for 2014. Beginning immediately, clubs are required to train their runners to slide and their catchers to provide the runner with a pathway to reach the plate at all levels of organizations. The league plans to distribute additional training materials in the weeks ahead.
"I'm a conservative-type guy. I like keeping things the way they are, although I do understand where they're coming from," Lucroy said. "I understand the owners who voted on it want to maintain their investments, and catchers are investments. So are the players who hit catchers. I understand the importance of [avoiding] concussions. I get it. It's just really hard to break old habits. Yesterday, we were thoroughly confused, trying to figure out ways to do it. There were so many issues as far as, 'Will this be legal? Would that be legal?'"
Even after reading the new rule, Lucroy said, "We've got a lot of grey area in my eyes. We're going to have to get this clarified."
Said Maldonado: "I think [collisions] are part of the game, but I understand they have to make some adjustments about catchers getting hurt and runners getting hurt. They have to do what they think is best. It sounds like we're going to be like a shortstop or second baseman now."
One key question raised by Maldonado -- What if an errant throw draws the catcher into the baseline? -- was answered in MLB's announcement. If the umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner, and that contact with the runner was unavoidable, the play will be legal.
Both Lucroy and Maldonado have been lucky to avoid big-time collisions in their Major League careers. Maldonado remembers tangling with a runner on a bang-bang play at the plate in 2010 and suffered a high ankle sprain. Lucroy remembers catching a helmet to the chin from Lastings Milledge of the Pirates that same season, but he suffered no ill effects.
"It's going to be different for them," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, who supports the idea of making changes to protect catchers and baserunners alike. "Jerry Narron played with Bob Boone for a lot of years, and Bob Boone did the swipe tag even way back. But he knew how to do it. He straddled the plate. They still had a big area to slide to, and it was just a catch and a swipe and a tag. I think they'll be able to pick it up pretty fast."
Maldonado hopes so.
"I told Luc we should keep an infield glove back here," Maldonado said, reaching around to the back of his belt, "so we can pull it out to catch balls for plays at the plate."
Schedule a consideration for Crew's rotation
PHOENIX -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is reasonably sure of who will start on Opening Day, even if he is not ready to share the pick publicly. The rest of the pitching rotation remains under discussion.
This year more than others, the schedule dictates that the Brewers not simply line up their pitchers in order of ability. After a three-game, season-opening series against the Braves at Miller Park, the Brewers have a day off before traveling to Boston to help the World Series champion Red Sox open Fenway Park. Then it's on to Philadelphia for yet another opening series against the Phillies, with another day off in the mix.
"There's some matchups that we're worried about, not just the first three games [against the Braves], but the games against Boston there, and the games against Philly," Roenicke said. "So we've got a bunch of numbers on what happened, and they don't tell us a whole lot, unfortunately. So we'll try to see how camp goes, and at the end if we see something, we can switch. We pretty much know what we want to do [with] the first couple of guys."
Yovani Gallardo has started the Brewers' last four Opening Days, two shy of Ben Sheets' franchise record. But Kyle Lohse was the Brewers' best starter last season and is the most veteran of the team's projected starters, and Matt Garza was the big-money offseason addition.
Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta are the two other projected Brewers starting pitchers. Those two will "piggyback" in Thursday's Cactus League opener against the A's.
In recent seasons, the Brewers have typically kept their five starting pitchers in order, even when they encounter off-days on the schedule. That will probably be the case this season, Roenicke said, so the Brewers' "No. 4" starter to begin the year will actually get a prime assignment on the day the Red Sox get their World Series rings.
"That is a big game," Roenicke said. "Yeah, it is, and it's not one that we just don't think about or we say, 'Oh, we'll be OK.' You have to think about those things."
Ring awaits Brewers righty De La Torre
PHOENIX -- The Brewers have a World Series winner in their midst. Right-hander Jose De La Torre made seven appearances for the Red Sox last season before Milwaukee claimed him off waivers in September, and he was asked to submit his measurements during the offseason for a championship ring.
"It's pretty cool," De La Torre said. "There's great players that play their whole career and they never get one. To be there for a month and be a part of that and a great team like they had, it was awesome."
De La Torre is in rare company in a Brewers clubhouse with few World Series winners. The active players with rings include Francisco Rodriguez (2002 Angels), Eugenio Velez (2010 Giants) and Kyle Lohse (2011 Cardinals).
Another player, Lyle Overbay, logged two September at-bats for the 2001 D-backs, but he said he never received a ring.
De La Torre figures that only a handful of his new Brewers teammates know he pitched for Boston last season. If he can make the Brewers' Opening Day roster, he will receive his ring in person, because the Brewers are the opponent for Boston's home opener on April 4.
"I'm not familiar with him, but if you go back and look at his stats and what he's done in his career, there are some really good numbers," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "There aren't too many guys that sign, and pitching-wise, they just put up all these ERA's of 2.00. There's probably seven years of ERA's in the twos. Usually you see this fluctuation, they are all over the chart and developing, trying to throw strikes. This is a guy that just comes in and deals all the way through. I know there's something really good there that he does that he understands how to get out hitters. You can't be that consistent and not understand it."
De La Torre owns a 2.82 ERA in 248 career games in the Minor Leagues. At Triple-A Pawtucket last season, he had a 2.75 ERA in 34 relief appearances.
• Wei-Chung Wang, Kevin Shackelford, David Goforth and Brooks Hall are among the young pitchers scheduled to work an inning apiece in a short intrasquad game at Maryvale Baseball Park on Tuesday. The three-inning affair, scheduled to begin at about 12:15 p.m. MST, is designed in part to give those big league camp rookies a taste of game action before Cactus League play begins.