St Louis Cardinals Photo Day

Mike Matheny wants to improve catcher safety

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Throughout his playing career spanning 1994-2006, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was known as one of the toughest players in the game, hearkening back to the older days of baseball. He suffered somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 concussions, according to Anthony Castrovince. If anyone would be against changing MLB’s rules to favor a “softer” game, it would be Matheny.

Surprisingly, Matheny does want MLB’s rules regarding home plate collisions changed.

“I understand old-school, and I consider myself an old-school player, as far as the way I go out and the way I was taught the game,” Matheny said. “[But] I just don’t see the sense in it.”

The growing sentiment for change comes as a result of an ugly injury Giants catcher Buster Posey suffered in May 2011 when Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins collided with him at home plate. Posey suffered a fractured leg and torn ligaments, ending his season. Others, including Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, have been hit hard since.

Major League Baseball, as much a business as it is a game, suffers when star players like Posey are unable to play. Thus, it would seem to be in its best interest to establish rules that would eliminate superfluous, risky plays like home plate collisions. If change is to be made, however, the “tough guy” culture must be perforated.

Joe Torre, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations and also a former catcher, has opposed such change. Indians manager Terry Francona is also a proponent of the status quo, and more are likely to come out as the debate rages on. The players, who often suffer through injuries and use terms such as “man up”, are just as likely to fight against change, especially if it means having to work to change playing habits.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.