Ruiz and Billmeyer: No need for rules to protect catchers

Jun 5 2011 - 5:37pm

Carlos Ruiz has seen the video. Of course he has. The replay of Giants catcher Buster Posey being blown up at the plate last week has been shown endlessly ever since. Posey's season is over following surgery to repair torn ankle ligaments and a fractured fibula. The debate goes on.

The Phillies' catcher is sorry about what happened to one of the bright young talents at his position. He said watching it reminded him of what a perilous position he plays.

He added, however, that he doesn't advocate rule changes to protect catchers and that he doesn't plan to change his approach, either.

"(Catching) is fun but, at the same time, it's tough," he said. "We've played this game the same way for a long time. I don't know, man. If they change, they change. If not, you've got to keep going."

By keep going, he meant continuing to stonewall at the plate by all means necessary.

"When the game is on the line, I don't think you're going to (do anything differently). You're the catcher. You're going to want to stay there. You're going to stay because you want to win. So it's hard to think that way because everything happens real fast," he added philosophically.

"If not, don't be a catcher. If you're going to catch, you have to love catching. Everything about it. It's hard. It's not easy. But you have to do it."

Some aren't so sure. Athletics general manager Billy Beane already has ordered his catcher, Kurt Suzuki, not to block the plate anymore. Giants manager Bruce Bochy is openly campaigning for more protection for receivers. The Twins are mulling the wisdom of moving All-Star Joe Mauer to another position. The Nationals made catcher Bryce Harper the first overall draft pick last June . . . and immediately converted him to the outfield.

Bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer understands the impulse, but detects some overreaction.

"I think it's just part of the game," he said. "And I'll be honest with you. He's the cleanup hitter in their lineup. I'm not sure they're talking about it day in and day out if it's the backup catcher. If it was Eli Whiteside or Dane Sardinha or Brian Schneider, I don't think they'd talk about it."

Billmeyer went on to note that Posey was vulnerable because he was in front of the plate and on his knees at the time the collision occurred.

"Maybe that's his technique. Todd Pratt used to sit right on top of the plate on his knees," he said. "I like to block the plate, but I like to be in the right position. Centerfield, leftfield, different. The ball in rightfield I like to start behind the plate and work into it. More of a rhythmic play, like a shortstop coming for a groundball instead of being out in front and already locked in."

Complicating the issue, he pointed out, is that home plate is a base that can be run through, like first, instead of one that has to be stopped at. And he doesn't believe the catcher is obligated to give the runner a part of the base to slide to, either. That means that occasional crashes are inevitable.

"Runners are taught to get that run. The catcher's going to try to stop him," he said with a shrug. "If it looks like the guy's going to beat the throw, you're going to get out of there. You're going to use your head a little bit. The guy can hit you if you're in there. If he's gonna get run over, I feel like (the catcher) should be on his feet, though. With both feet pointed up the third-base line. You'll avoid injury that way. He'll just knock you flat."

Billmeyer is right. Baseball doesn't need another rule. Just solid technique and a little bit of common sense.

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ONE THAT GOT AWAY

Much-traveled righthander Ryan Vogelsong, a Downingtown, Pa., resident and Kutztown University product, is off to a nice start for the defending world champion Giants. And his last five starts have been spectacular: 0.57 earned run average and a .226 opponent's batting average.

Yes, this is the same Ryan Vogelsong who went to spring training with the Phillies a year ago and was released from Triple A Lehigh Valley in July.

It's hard to blame the Phils. He was 2-5, 4.91 for the IronPigs, shuttling between the bullpen and the rotation. He turns 34 next month. It's just another reminder that, in baseball, you really never do know.

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DOWN AND UP

The Phillies' Lehigh Valley Triple A affiliate had never been above .500 before this season, not even for a game. Now the IronPigs are in first place, 12 games over. First-year manager Ryne Sandberg isn't going to gloat, but you just know he has to be quietly thrilled. He's a Cubs Hall of Famer who got passed over as the team's major league manager when Mike Quade was hired last offseason, even though Sandberg had been successful in the team's minor league system.

"I want to do this at the major league level from a coaching standpoint or a managerial standpoint. Obviously that did not happen in Chicago," he told ESPN.com this week. "People in the minor leagues are trying to get to the major leagues. I felt like I didn't have the opportunity to get to the major leagues (with the Cubs) ... I felt like it was necessary for me to leave the organization.

"I'm in the minor leagues all over again. How do I want to put it? I look at myself as a minor league manager trying to get to the big leagues as a coach or a manager."

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IT'S JUST A GAME

Craig Calcaterra posted an interesting story online recently about a guy named Michael G. Kovacevich, a 58-year-old historian who is replaying the entire 2008 season for all 30 teams with the APBA tabletop game. He has been at it for a couple of years and has almost finished.

And, no, the Phillies don't win the World Series as they did in real life.

In fact, they finish 79-83.

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DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ

The Internet rumor about the Phillies being interested in Padres closer Heath Bell just won't die. Anything's possible but, really, how does that make any sense at all?

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BAD TEAM I

Mets manager Terry Collins ripped into his team after an ugly loss to the Pirates on Wednesday. "When he gives it to you like that, it's almost like you upset your mother. Nobody likes that," veteran Willie Harris told the New York Daily News.

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BAD TEAM II

The Twins were expected to contend. Instead, they have the worst record in baseball. And that's starting to wear on some of the players, even though there are still four months left. "I used to come to the ballpark excited to be here and want to work to get better. And now it's really hard," admitted pitcher Brian Duensing.

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BELIEVE IT OR NOT

Blue Jays lefthander Jo-Jo Reyes had gone 28 straight starts without a win. So when Toronto reliever Brandon Morrow tweeted that he was looking for a goat to "do something special" with before Reyes' next start, it raised some eyebrows. The fact that Reyes then went out and beat the first-place Indians on Monday to end his streak did nothing to ease suspicions. But Reyes insisted no animal sacrifices were involved.

"No, no sacrifices," he told the Toronto Star. "I'm all clean with PETA."

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STANDING ROOM ONLY

Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez' back hurts so much that the team will decide Friday whether to put him on the disabled list. In the meantime, though, the team had a charter from Phoenix to Miami on Wednesday night. To ease his discomfort, Ramirez said he planned to stand the entire 4 1/2-hour trip except for takeoff and landing.

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WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Second baseman Dan Uggla was supposed to be a big part of Atlanta's plan to challenge the Phillies in the National League East this season. So far, though, he's batting .175. Even worse, he's hitting .078 in his last 15 games.

He has been dropped to seventh in the order. He has been benched twice in the last week. And as if all that wasn't bad enough, the fans have taken time out for their tomahawk-chopping to give him a new nickname: Struggla.

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OZ FEST

Talkative White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was at it again this week, blasting fans for having short memories of the team's 2005 world championship, then blaming the media for twisting his words. Here's what he said: "The monuments, the statues they have for you, they pee on it when they drunk." Gee, it would be kind of hard to misinterpret that.

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RANDOM FACTS

Tampa Bay's James Shields is the only pitcher to pick runners off at first, second and third this season . . . The Pirates have 17 road wins. That matches their total all last season . .. The Twins lead baseball with 25 one-run decisions.

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