It’s been a few days now since Major League Baseball announced its new rules regarding plays at second base. Time enough for Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano to digest the changes.
Mostly, he sees the new rules as a step in the right direction.
“You think about how many guys have been hurt the last few years,” Cano said. “I know some guys like to play hard, but sometimes that’s stupid. You (intentionally) slide away from the bag to try to break up a double play. …
“Look at what happened to (Mets shortstop Ruben) Tejada last year (in the postseason). Or (then-Mets shortstop) Kaz Matsui (in 2005) in Oakland.”
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Tejada suffered a broken leg on a nasty slide by Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League division series. Tejada missed the remainder of the Mets’ postseason run and remained in a walking boot until late January.
Matsui missed eight weeks because of a bone bruise suffered on a takeout slide by then-A’s catcher Jason Kendall. Those are only two of the injuries suffered in recent years on hard slides at second base.
“Not just because I’m a second baseman,” Cano said, “but I don’t think there’s a situation where you have to slide so hard and try to break somebody’s leg. Everyone here is supporting their family.
“You get hurt, and you don’t know if you’re going to be able to play again. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The new rules require that a runner begin his slide before reaching the base, be able and attempt to reach the base with a hand or foot, attempt to remain on the base and not change his path to initiate contact.
MLB is also allowing video-review challenges on the “neighborhood play,” which will require infielders to stay on the base when they take the throws on force plays. Those plays were previously exempt from challenges.
The neighborhood play — an infielder being in the “neighborhood” when he took the throw — sought to protect middle infielders on slides, particularly the second baseman, who often has his back to the runner when taking the throw.
Cano doesn’t foresee a problem.
“If you slide,” he said, “and you go past, you have to keep your hand on the bag. So if I stay on the bag longer, they can slide past the bag and hit you.
“But you can just take the ball and move away. The runner has to slide to the bag. You don’t have to worry about your inside or outside leg, that he’s going to come and get you.”
In other words, take the throw and get out of the way.
If you can.
“There are going to be issues,” Cano conceded. “Now, when you get the ball, you’re going to have to make sure that you’re there (on the base). The last thing you want is to mess the game up (because you weren’t on the base).”
LEE SEEKS WORK VISA
Mariners first baseman Dae-Ho Lee is expected to return Thursday to Vancouver, B.C., in order to get a work visa required to pursue his dream to play in the big leagues.
General manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed that Lee, a South Korean native, traveled Tuesday to Vancouver for a meeting regarding his application for a work visa.
Lee was in camp Wednesday, but not on the Mariners’ roster when they opened their Cactus League season with a 7-0 victory over San Diego at Peoria Stadium.
Dipoto said the club expected Lee to be back in camp Friday with a work visa in hand. Lee is battling Jesus Montero and Gaby Sanchez for duty as a right-handed partner to first baseman Adam Lind.
The Mariners signed Lee, 33, on Feb. 3 to a minor-league deal that permits him to become a free agent in late March through an opt-out clause.
Lee spent the last four years in Japan after an 11-year career in Korea. He was picked last season as the most valuable player in the Japan Series after leading the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks to the title.
HEREDIA: NO REGRETS
Center fielder Guillermo Heredia said he never regretted his decision to defect from Cuba even though it effectively robbed him of two years in his playing career.
“I knew it was a process,” he said. “I was focused on the future and getting here. It’s difficult being away, but it’s not impossible.
“Obviously, it’s hard being away from the game. It’s two years but, sometimes, there are things that happen where you just have to step away from the game. That’s what happened here.
“But now that I’m here with this organization, I’m going to give my entire heart to them and work hard to have success.”
The Mariners reached agreement with Heredia on Feb. 22, but it took until Tuesday for all paperwork to be completed. He took part in Wednesday’s workouts.
Heredia’s contract is a split deal of $507,500 in the majors and $82,700 if he plays in the minors with pro-rated portions for time at the two levels. He received a $400,000 signing bonus.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him,” manager Scott Servais said. “We’ll get to look at (him in) BP today and moving around in the outfield. Obviously, he’s a speed and defense-type player in center field. We’ll get a feel for the bat.”
Heredia, 25, played six years for Matanzas in the Cuban league and played for the national team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. But he played only one game in 2014 before defecting to Mexico.
“There was a lot of sacrifice,” Heredia said. “There have been a lot of things that happened between then and getting here. But this is a new opportunity, and I see this as a new phase in my life. I’ll work hard to reach my objectives.”
Heredia characterized himself as “a contact hitter who has some speed and some defense. An agile player.” He batted .285 in his Cuban career with a .376 on-base percentage in 374 games.
“Our scouting staff was really (high) on him,” Servais said. “I had been involved in signing international players before, so I do know the anxiety level and the nervousness for that young player.”
While Heredia agreed to a major-league contract, which means he’s on the 40-man roster, he is almost certain to open the season in the minors — most likely at Double-A Jackson.
“We’ll give him some time and break him in easily,” Servais said. “I don’t know where our minor-league people see him going. … He just needs to play. It doesn’t really matter where. Just play.”
The Mariners bolstered their organization depth by reaching agreement with first baseman/left fielder Efren Navarro on a minor-league deal that includes an invitation to big-league camp.
Navarro, 29, joined the roster in time for Wednesday’s workout. He became a free agent Sunday when he rejected an outright assignment to the minors by Baltimore after clearing waivers.
Before joining the Orioles in a Jan. 26 cash transaction, Navarro spent nine years in the Los Angeles Angels’ organization. He played parts of four seasons in the big leagues.
While Navarro excelled at Triple-A over the last five seasons — batting .316 with a .378 on-base percentage and a .449 slugging percentage in 552 games — that success hasn’t yet continued into the majors.
Navarro has a .246/.303/.324 slash in 256 at-bats over 130 big-league games with one homer and 20 RBIs.
Designated hitter Nelson Cruz could make his spring debut as soon as Thursday, depending on the outcome of some base-running drills to test what the Mariners characterize as a “sore leg.”…While Servais is open to the possibility of having Franklin Gutierrez play occasionally in center field “if he’s comfortable doing it,” that seems unlikely. Servais emphasized the need to ensure Gutierrez is in “a good spot, health-wise” when the season opens. “Then we can utilize him for the whole year,” Servais said. “We face a lot of left-handed pitching.”…The Mariners have 60 players on their camp roster after signing Navarro and Heredia. That includes 31 who were not in the organization when last season ended.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners