Clarity to come on home-plate collision rule

Toronto Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro. Peter Power/CP

TORONTO – Confusion over the new home-plate collision rule lingered for the Blue Jays and Astros on Wednesday, with Houston manager Bo Porter saying a memo from Major League Baseball clarifying where catchers can stand when the infield is coming “at some point this week.”

Their questions stemmed from a play at the plate in the seventh inning of Toronto’s 5-2 win on Tuesday, when a weak Dexter Fowler chopper was fielded up the third-base line by Brett Cecil, who relayed to Dioner Navarro to easily nab L.J. Hoes.

Navarro, however, was standing over the plate before he received the throw, which is technically in violation of the new rule guaranteeing the runner a clear lane. Porter asked the umpires to look at the replay, and the play was reviewed as a challenge on the safe/out call since the position of catchers can’t be challenged.

Porter spoke with Tony La Russa from the commissioner’s office for 15-20 minutes Wednesday morning, and he informed the manager of the imminent memo.

“A lot of the conversation that we had leading up to the season was more about the ball coming in from the outfield,” said Porter. “When you start talking about the infield in, and this is what Tony and I talked about today, the play is going to happen so fast that the catcher has to have reasonable time to get from behind the plate into a position to receive the ball.

“They’re going to come up with some language and bring some clarity to it. It’s a learning process for everyone involved and I’m anxious to see the memo when it comes out.”

Discussing the various different factors in the mix, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said, “that’s what so screwed up about the play.” As for overturning a call based on catcher positioning, Gibbons said: “He’s got to be sitting on that plate without the ball before they’ll do anything. That’s the way I would see it.”

Porter felt Navarro didn’t give Hoes a lane to run.

“I thought he was in front of the plate,” said Porter. “That’s why I picked up the phone this morning and called Tony La Russa. When you look at the play itself, when you have the infield in, technically it’s going to change the dynamic of that play because the catcher, when the ball is hit to an infielder, when he stands up to receive the ball, he will be in front of the plate without the ball. There’s no place for him to go but in front of the plate. They’re going to look at it, and there are much smarter people than myself that are going to be in charge of clarifying it.”

BLUE JAYS ARM UP: The season now 10 days old, the Blue Jays decided to arm up the back-end of their bullpen by calling up Neil Wagner from triple-A Buffalo and optioning fellow right-hander Marcus Walden.

They had initially planned to bring up Chad Jenkins after Jeremy Jeffress was designated for assignment last week, but couldn’t because players on option can’t be recalled until 10 days have passed in the season unless there’s an injury.

Since Wagner wasn’t down in Buffalo on option for 20 days, the Blue Jays don’t burn his last option.

He slots in to give the back-end some depth as manager John Gibbons has found the game to be a little bit longer minus closer Casey Janssen.

“That’s why he’s coming,” said Gibbons. “We got Redmond and Rogers to (go long if needed), so it made sense to get a little bit more firepower late. …

“(Wagner’s) got that big arm. The key for him is he started finding that strike zone, that’s kind of something that had been deserting him in his career up until last year. We expect him to fill a big role for us.”

JANSSEN AND REYES PROGRESS: Casey Janssen came out of a bullpen session Wednesday feeling good and the hope is he can start a rehab assignment after one more side.
Janssen’s goal was to increase his intensity on the mound and John Gibbons says pitching coach Pete Walker told him that the closer, “looked really, really good. That’s encouraging.”

“Pete said he really picked it up compared to his last one.”

Shortstop Jose Reyes, meanwhile, tested his left hamstring with more running Wednesday, and Gibbons said, “he’s making progress. On this next road trip we’ll get him out there running the bases a little bit. He’s moving along pretty good.”

SLUMPING LAWRIE: Brett Lawrie headed into Wednesday’s game with the Astros in a 3-for-29 funk and John Gibbons didn’t have any obvious issues to explain the slide.

“He’s maybe pressing a little bit because he had such a good spring,” he said. “All it takes is a good game, he needs a couple of gorks in there, it can do wonders for your mental side.”

Asked how he felt the excitable third baseman was handling things, Gibbons replied with praise for Lawrie.

“Actually, I think he’s pretty composed from how Brett was in the past, so I tip my hat to him,” said Gibbons. “He’s come a long way, but I’ll tell you what, he’s got that fire in him, he’s a great competitor so you know it’s eating at him, but he’s controlling his emotions, which is important.”

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