The Orioles could make a play for Victor Martinez

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Let us first stipulate that, yeah, it’s probably way too early for free agent rumors. So much happens between now and when guys file that it’s kinda silly for anyone to put too much stock in the various whispers out there. But hey: if people can spend all day arguing that wins are what makes a pitcher great, I can engage in some irresponsible rumor mongering too, right?

This one is fun: Buster Olney says that the Orioles may go after Victor Martinez “in a combo 1B-C-DH/leader type of role.”

Who knows if it would happen, but I think it’s not a terrible idea. They have no first baseman to speak of for 2011. I’m assuming they’ll keep Luke Scott around to DH next year — he’s arbitration eligible and will get a raise — but he can play a corner if need be, and of course Matt Wieters could use an occasional rest. Martinez’s defensive flexibility could allow Buck Showalter to do a lot of things.

I know that the first thing most people say when they talk about fixing the Orioles is to work on pitching, but they’re 13th in the AL in both runs scored and runs allowed (and the pitching has been better in recent weeks).  Improvement in any capacity would be a good thing.

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.