Cubs’ Willson Contreras: MLB’s new mound-visit limit is a rule made to be broken
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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Nobody even has played a game yet in spring training, and the Cubs already look like a threat for the first ejection of the year because of baseball’s new rule limiting visits to the mound.
The six-visit limit per nine innings — including visits by the catcher — is part of a set of new pace-of-play rules unveiled by major-league officials this week.
It didn’t take long for fiery Cubs catcher Willson Contreras — one of the league’s most frequent visitors to the mound — to object strenuously during his first media scrum Tuesday.
“I don’t even care,” he said. “If I have to [talk to my pitcher] again and pay the price for my team, I will.”
MLB chief officer Joe Torre said if a catcher, or another player on the field, attempts to violate the rule after a team’s allotment of visits is used up, the umpire will direct the player to get back behind the plate — at the risk of ejection if he argues and/or refuses.
“What about a tight game or extra-inning game and you have to go out there?” Contreras said. “They cannot say anything about that. That’s my team. If they are going to fine me, I’ll pay the price.”
Contreras’ bosses say they will figure out how to work within the rules and aren’t worried about their young catcher causing trouble.
“That’s Willson being Willson. I’m not really concerned about that,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We’ve already talked about it with the pitchers and the catchers. There’s some adjustments we’re going to have to make.
“Maybe he didn’t quite grasp everything we talked about. But he’ll be fine.”
New frontline starter Yu Darvish threw his first session of live batting practice against Cubs hitters and earned oohs and ahs from onlookers for the stuff he displayed, including at least one whistle by Maddon.
“Feb. 20. Wow. That was my thought,” Maddon said, raving about the “low carry” on Darvish’s fastball. “I know it’s early. I’m certain his adrenaline was flowing a little bit right there. But he threw the ball great, with great conviction. More as a purist, I looked at the delivery and how the ball was reacting at home plate, and it was outstanding.”
Teammates, who didn’t swing the bat when stepping in against him, greeted him with fist bumps when he was done.
Ben there? Not yet
After touting his offseason workout routine and his newfound overall good health, veteran Ben Zobrist has been unable to participate in scheduled practices the first two days of full-squad workouts because of back soreness.
“He’s going to be fine,” Maddon said. “I just don’t want to push it right now. I’ll check with him again [Wednesday]. But he’s fine.”
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