Joey Votto’s status in limbo for World Baseball Classic

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Joey Votto is hoping to play for Team Canada in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, but he underwent knee surgery last summer and must pass a physical for insurance purposes before he’s given the go-ahead. This according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.

“We have every reason to believe there will be no issue whatsoever,” Team Canada’s manager, Greg Hamilton, told reporters on Saturday. That physical will presumably take place in a couple of weeks.

Votto hit .337/.474/.567 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI in 111 games last season for Cincinnati. He owns an exceptional .316/.415/.553 career MLB batting line.

If he’s cleared to play, the 29-year-old native of Toronto will join a roster that already includes Brett Lawrie, Justin Morneau, Russell Martin, Michael Saunders, John Axford and Jesse Crain. Ryan Dempster was extended an invitation but is probably going to stay in camp all spring with his new Red Sox teammates.

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.