PHOENIX — Oakland catcher Derek Norris said collisions at home plate are part of the game and he applauds the updated rule that still allows for them in major league baseball.
He still expects to be bowled over by runners hoping to score, just as long as it’s clean.
“It’s part of the game,” Norris said Monday. “If I’ve got the ball and the plate blocked and he’s running to the plate, it’s clean. I got run over by one of the nicest guys in baseball.”
Raul Ibanez, then playing for the New York Yankees, took out Norris in a game.
“It was a clean hit,” Norris said. “It hurt like hell, but it was a clean play. From the catchers I’ve talked with around the league, they all wanted collisions to stay in the game.”
Norris said he firmly believes that over 99 percent of big league players play fair at home plate and that the rule was intended to discourage the less than 1 percent of other runners from going after the catcher whether the ball is there or not.
“We all know how the controversy started,” Norris said. “Player X went at Player Y and the result was Player Y missing the rest of the season. This popped up on the radar because of one certain collision.”
Norris was referring to Scott Cousins, then with the Florida Marlins, barreling over San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey in a game on May 25, 2011, at AT&T Park.
Posey missed the rest of the year with a broken leg and Giants fans vilified Cousins, who played his college ball at the University of San Francisco.
“The runner’s path is to the plate,” Norris said. “If he deviates from it, he’s not trying to score, he’s trying to harm. Any time you are looking out for someone’s safety, it’s a good thing.”
Home plate collision rules have been in effect since Pete Rose effectively ended Ray Fosse’s career by taking out the AL catcher during the 1970 All-Star Game. Like Posey, Fosse has never carried any ill will.
The latest rule also clarifies that a catcher cannot block the plate without the ball, which Norris said made sense.
“If you don’t have the ball and it’s not being thrown in, you don’t have any business being there,” he said.
The new rule was adopted by MLB and the players’ association on a one-year experimental basis.
“A lot of the initial contact is still in the game. All of the major sports are trying to clear it up slowly. They are trying to look after players, especially up here in this region,” Norris said while pointing to his head. “You’re going to have collisions in any sport and if you do go in a direction, this is the way to go.”
NOTES: OF Craig Gentry said he was going to try to swing a bat to test his sore lower back. A’s manager Bob Melvin said Gentry “continues to get better.” . RHP Ryan Cook (shoulder inflammation) threw from 105 feet on flat ground. . RHP Jesse Chavez earned the spring exhibition opening start Wednesday in part because “it looks like right now the season is starting for him,” Melvin said. “He’s a guy we can always count whether it’s to start, pitch a few innings in relief or just to a few batters. We used his versatility last year. He’s focused every day.”