Jim Tracy eschews save-based managing in win

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Last night Jim Tracy did something I’ve been begging managers to do for years, which is use his best reliever in most important spot regardless of whether it involved a so-called “save situation.”
Tracy brought in closer Franklin Morales with a four-run lead, one out, and runners on the corners in the eighth inning, in part because Pablo Sandoval was due up for the Giants and in part because with the tying run on deck that was likely to be the most crucial spot in the game.
Morales successfully got out of the jam, preserving the four-run lead, at which point Tracy turned to setup man Manny Corpas in the ninth inning. Most other managers would have used Corpas (or another non-closer) in the tight eighth-inning spot against the Giants’ best hitter while holding Morales back for a save situation that may never have materialized (and may have been a lower-leverage spot even if it did).
Credit Tracy for doing something that has unfortunately become rare over the past 20 years or so. Better yet, Morales had zero problem with the shift in usage, saying afterward: “I think Jim Tracy did the best job. That was the best move to help us win.”

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.