Braves trying to get a handle on new collisions rule

Rule 7.13, adopted this week, doesn’t ban home-plate collisions, but states that runner attempting to score can’t “deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate).” Any runner doing so will be called out and could face further discipline in severe cases.

The Braves plan to discuss the new rule Wednesday before their Grapefruit League opener against the Tigers.

“From what I understand it’s pretty much the same game, just don’t go out of your way to run them over, which I don’t do anyway,” Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons said.

But there are other provisions, including that the catcher isn’t permitted to block the plate without the ball and must give the runner a lane to part of the plate if the catcher is preparing to take a throw. If the catcher doesn’t comply, the runner can be called safe.

“I don’t think anything’s really changing,” Braves catcher Evan Gattis said. “A guy can’t go out of his way to run into you, to my understanding. And you can’t take the plate away (as a catcher) before you have the ball. I like it. Not much really changes. We always kind of give them a lane anyway.”

If the catcher blocks the plate, a runner won’t be forced to slide, since to do so could endanger a runner trying to slide through or around a catcher wearing shin guards and standing squarely in front of the plate. Collisions also are permitted if a catcher backs into a runner’s lane to the plate while trying to field a throw.

Baseball and its players agreed to an addendum of sorts that states that a runner colliding with a catcher is not in violation “if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and 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.”

Gattis, who is 6 feet 3 and 250 pounds, said some collisions are unavoidable. “If the ball beats the runner by a lot and he runs into you, as long as it’s not malicious, I’m all for it,” he said.

The sides also agreed to limit how runners could collide with catchers, stating, “The failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner’s lowering of the shoulder, or the runner’s pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms, would support a determination that the runner deviated from the pathway in order to initiate contact with the catcher in violation.”

Said Braves second baseman Dan Uggla: “I think you can lower your shoulder if he’s blocking the plate. But that’s really the only time you should ever lower your shoulder. Because if he’s not blocking the plate, that’s a dirty move to try and run over him. But if he’s catching the ball and coming across you’ve got to protect yourself, too.”

Simmons said: “You can’t lower your shoulder? So you’re saying you can’t protect yourself? So you’ve got to take it? … I’ll protect myself. If I get thrown out for protecting myself, it’s better than getting hurt and going on the DL.”

Medlen in opener? Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez hasn’t named his opening-day starting pitcher and might not for several weeks. But if the Braves maintain their current rotation throughout the Grapefruit League schedule, Kris Medlen appears to be in line to start the March 31 opener at Milwaukee.

The Braves open the spring-training schedule Wednesday with veteran Freddy Garcia starting against Detroit at Champion Stadium. He’ll be followed by Medlen on Thursday against the Tigers in Lakeland, Brandon Beachy on Friday night against Houston, Julio Teheran on Saturday vs. Washington, and Alex Wood and David Hale in split-squad games Sunday against the Tigers and Astros.

Non-arbitration signings: The Braves agreed to terms on one-year deals with 19 players who had less than three years of big-league service and weren’t eligible for arbitration, including Gattis and left-handers Wood and Luis Avilan. Financial terms were not disclosed or immediately available.

Others signed included right-handers David Carpenter, Cory Gearrin, David Hale, Juan Jaime, Aaron Northcraft, Wirfin Obispo and Anthony Varvaro; lefties Ryan Buchter and Carlos Perez; infielders Ernesto Mejia, Tyler Pastornicky and Elmer Reyes; outfielders Jose Constanza, Todd Cunningham and Joey Terdoslavich; and catcher Christian Bethancourt.

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