Astros owner Jim Crane bought iPads for all the players

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When the Astros arrived at their lockers in Minute Maid Park they found new iPads waiting for them, courtesy of owner Jim Crane.

Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports that Crane got the idea from general manager Jeff Luhnow, who wants the players to use the iPads to “look at of their at-bats and pitching so they can study the pitching for the next night.”

Or, you know, fun stuff. Of course, McTaggart also notes: “Most of the players already have iPads.”

Yes, I suppose a free thing worth $500 isn’t such a big deal for players even on a team where almost everyone is making the minimum salary when the minimum salary is $500,000. Still. On a related note, a few months ago NBC sent me a free Rotoworld hat and I’ve worn it approximately 100 times.

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.