Yesterday afternoon, the Phillies found themselves trailing the Reds 6-3 with Marlon Byrd on first base and two outs. Domonic Brown ripped the first pitch from Alfredo Simon into the gap in right-center field. Speedy center fielder Billy Hamilton corralled the ball and fired a perfect relay throw to second baseman Brandon Phillips, who then made a perfect one-hop throw to catcher Devin Mesoraco with Byrd still several feet from home plate. Byrd and Mesoraco collided, and Byrd was ruled out.
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg had the umpires review the play, suggesting that Mesoraco had not provided an adequate lane to home plate for Byrd. However, the umpires upheld the ruling and Byrd was out. Sandberg strongly disagreed, so he came back out to make his case to home plate umpire Tom Hallion. He was immediately ejected. The Phillies went on to lose by one run, 6-5. Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, an MLB spokesman said the play was upheld because replay officials felt that Byrd did indeed have a sufficient lane to the plate. You can watch the play here and decide for yourself.
Sandberg was still unhappy with it after the game and says the interpretations of the rules have been inconsistent. Via Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“He put his shin guard down and blocked the plate without the ball,” Sandberg said. “I think that’s gone against us three times on different interpretations on different scenarios. Everyone just wants to know what the rule is. What is it? It can’t be just whoever is there [in New York] has their opinion, because we’re teaching the catchers one thing. We’re telling baserunners another thing.
“They want to eliminate a collision with the catcher, well, the catcher instigated the collision by blocking home plate without the ball.”
Even Mesoraco said he isn’t sure if he broke the rules:
“It’s such a hard rule to decipher, and it’s such a tough thing to really – it’s not black and white,” Mesoraco said. “My first goal is to catch the ball and tag the guy from there. If they want to call him out, they’ll call him out.”
This will certainly not be the first nor the last time that the murky rules surrounding home plate collisions leads to a misunderstanding.
The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.
Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.
Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.
Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.
Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.
Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.
The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”
Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.
Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.
On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.