John Lackey has never exactly been Mr. Endearing when he’s opined to the media. He showed why that is again after Saturday’s loss to the Orioles in which he surrendered nine runs on 13 hits over five innings. The right-hander allowed three home runs, including one to 28-year-old rookie catcher Caleb Joseph. It was Joseph’s fifth consecutive game with a home run, and his blast went a reported 383 out to left-center at Camden Yards.
After the game, Lackey called Joseph’s long ball a “Baltimore home run”, as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosh reports. Ostensibly, Lackey means that Camden Yards’ dimensions favor hitters — and it does, but that is hardly an excuse for his performance. According to Statcorner.com, Camden Yards is very slightly above-average for right-handed hitters when it comes to hitting home runs. The park plays much better for left-handed hitters to hit home runs.
The Cardinals picked up the hot-tempered Lackey along with minor league pitcher Corey Littrell at the trade deadline from the Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly. In 23 starts overall this season, Lackey has a 3.98 ERA with a 123/34 K/BB ratio in 149 1/3 innings.
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.
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.