FORT MYERS, Fla. – Cardinals catcher Carson Kelly visited the mound once Monday, and pitching coach Mike Maddux trotted out once, too. But there was a third “mound visit” noted by home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg during the Twins’ 5-4 victory, too, and it came as a surprise to them.
When Twins catcher Mitch Garver took a foul ball off his mask in the second inning, pitcher Phil Hughes came in to make sure he was OK. As he came off the field when the inning ended, Hughes stopped to ask Kellogg whether, under baseball’s new pace-of-play rules limiting mound visits to six per game, that short conference with his catcher constituted a visit.
“He said, as of right now, yes. Which I thought was surprising,” Hughes said. “When a guy takes a ball off the mask, [I’m] just checking to see if he’s all right and give him a second. We’re not talking about strategy or anything. [Kellogg] said as he understands it now, [it counts anyway], but he wouldn’t be surprised if some memos go out to clarify things.”
Paul Molitor intends to go right to the source Tuesday, when MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre and Vice President of Baseball Operations Peter Woodfork visit camp to explain the rule to him, bench coach Derek Shelton and the team’s top executives. “That won’t stand, I don’t think,” the Twins manager said. “There are provisions [in the new rule] about checking on a pitcher, but I would think if the catcher takes one off [his mask], we’re trying to protect them.”
Molitor said he has a list of questions he wants clarified before Opening Day. “We always try to get our infielders to go in and slow the game down a little bit after our pitcher is involved in a play. Is there going to be field markers that say how far you can go? I don’t know how they’ll deal with some of that stuff,” Molitor said. “But I would think there’s going to be a little bit of wiggle room as they see how it plays. They’ll have to tweak it a little bit.”
For instance, what about when an umpire takes a foul tip off the mask, and the catcher goes to the mound to allow him some time to recover? “That would also count as a mound visit,” Hughes joked, “if the umpire can remember that he went out.”
The Twins made no announcement about signing Logan Morrison on Monday, but a source with knowledge of the transaction said that it’s just a matter of passing his physical, which could happen Tuesday. The source also said the Twins, who have signed six free agents this winter, are unlikely to add a seventh, though they continue to monitor pitching options in case another bargain comes available.
All the late transactions have delayed the Twins’ plans to discuss contract extensions with some of their young players, but they still hope to hold those talks in March.
“I wouldn’t say our plans have changed. I would say our focus has been more split than normal for this time of year,” said Derek Falvey, the Twins chief baseball officer. “We’ve been a bit more attentive to the process of player acquisition than is usual [in February], but it’s no setback. You have agents starting to swing through camps, arbitration is behind us, and those opportunities still exist.”
Jose Berrios, in line to start Opening Day next month, makes his first start of the spring, and newcomer Anibal Sanchez will make his first appearance as well as the Twins play host to Boston in a night game.