Mariners sign Garko to platoon with Kotchman

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Non-tendered by the Giants in December when he would have been in line for about $2 million via arbitration, Ryan Garko has signed a one-year deal with the Mariners worth $550,000 and another $525,000 in potential incentives.
Garko isn’t much of a defender and his bat is mediocre against right-handers, but he crushes left-handers and makes for a nice platoon partner for Casey Kotchman. Garko’s hit .313/.392/.495 versus lefties in his career compared to .277/.334/.378 for Kotchman, and he’s certainly decent enough versus righties to be a full-time option if needed.
By adding Garko (and fellow platoon bat Eric Byrnes) the Mariners seem quite a bit more likely to enter the season with only 11 pitchers, although the fact that an 11-man pitching now qualifies as “only” is very disturbing to me. There’s no real need for seven relievers anyway, so adding Garko to boost the lineup versus lefties makes plenty of sense and the price is certainly right. Another shrewd, low-cost pickup for Seattle.

Martin Maldonado and Willson Contreras say they’re willing to pay fines rather than follow new mound visit rule

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.

Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.

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Update (4:43 PM ET): In response to this, Manfred said that if a catcher or coach made a seventh mound visit, there would have to be a pitching change (via Fletcher). However, chief baseball officer Joe Torre said (via SB Nation’s Eric Stephen) that the seventh visit cannot trigger a pitching change. The umpire would simply have to prevent the seventh mound visit.