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posted: 4/16/2018 7:00 AM

Pitch framing tactics under a bit more scrutiny

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  • St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, right, throws off his mask as he argues with Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo during an altercation in the second inning of a baseball game Sunday, April 8, 2018, in St. Louis.

    St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, right, throws off his mask as he argues with Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo during an altercation in the second inning of a baseball game Sunday, April 8, 2018, in St. Louis.
    Associated Press

  • Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo gestures at St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina as he argues balls and strikes with home plate umpire Tim Timmons in the second inning of a baseball game on Sunday, April 8, 2018, in St. Louis, Mo. Molina took offense to Lovullo's comments which led to a bench-clearing scuffle at home plate. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

    Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo gestures at St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina as he argues balls and strikes with home plate umpire Tim Timmons in the second inning of a baseball game on Sunday, April 8, 2018, in St. Louis, Mo. Molina took offense to Lovullo's comments which led to a bench-clearing scuffle at home plate. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)
    Associated Press

 
 

The concept of pitch framing is not exactly new, but it certainly seems to be under a bit more scrutiny now.

There was even a bench-clearing incident earlier this month when Arizona manager Torey Lovullo started arguing with the plate umpire about St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina's framing. Lovullo said he praised Molina while using a profanity. The two had a shouting match.

It's rare for something as mundane as pitch framing to cause such a dust-up, but it's clear that players, managers and umpires are becoming increasingly cognizant of the way catchers can try to influence calls on balls and strikes.

"I've had an umpire tell me this year that borderline pitches, I'm making them look better than what they are," Detroit catcher James McCann said. "They've known for years that we try and steal strikes. It's probably just more in the limelight now because we do have the framing numbers, and we do have umpires grades."

Lovullo's complaints aside, there doesn't seem to be too much of a backlash yet over the way catchers try to get a few extra strikes.

"People get pitches off the plate all the time. It happens. Umpires are human, they mess up, they just make a bad call every now and then," San Diego outfielder Wil Myers said. "Yadier Molina is a great catcher who can get a little more strikes than most catchers. Good for him, right? That's why he's behind the plate and that's why he does what he does."

Washington catcher Matt Wieters says he thinks umpires have become less sensitive to the idea that catchers may be trying to deceive them.

"It used to be where, when I was first starting, the umpire would say, 'Hey, stop doing that,' type thing. And now that's not really the case anymore," Wieters said. "You probably will get blowback for it as a catcher, but your No. 1 job is to get the pitcher as many pitches as you can get, so do what you can."

Wieters also says there's a financial incentive for catchers to hone that part of the skill set.

"Throughout the league it's become such a big thing because guys are starting to get contracts because of how they're able to get strikes for their pitchers," Wieters said. "I don't think it's ever the other manager's spot to say something about how the catcher's catching a ball."

More developments from around the majors:

TEMPERS

Within days of the Lovullo-Molina incident, the Red Sox and Yankees had a melee at Fenway Park after New York's Tyler Austin was hit by a pitch from Joe Kelly and charged the mound. The benches had already cleared briefly earlier in that game Wednesday night after Austin's spikes clipped Brock Holt's leg on a slide into second base.

Also on Wednesday, Colorado star Nolan Arenado charged the mound after a pitch from San Diego's Luis Perdomo sailed behind him.

There's been plenty of testiness to go around - including the non-violent kind. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle criticized Javier Baez of the Cubs for a bat flip on a popup, and that dispute lingered for a couple days.

HIGHLIGHT

The Pirates have been off to a good start, but Friday at Miami was not their finest hour. Starlin Castro of the Marlins lifted a sacrifice fly to right, bringing home a run, but after the throw to the plate, catcher Elias Diaz tried to throw a runner out at second and the ball sailed into a vacant spot in center field. By the time the play ended, all three runners had scored .

LINE OF THE WEEK

At age 44, Bartolo Colon is still a wonder. The Texas right-hander took a perfect game into the eighth inning against Houston on Sunday night before allowing a walk and a hit. He struck out seven in 7 2/3 innings, and the Rangers won 3-1 in 10 .

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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AP Sports Writers Bernie Wilson and Ben Nuckols contributed to this report.

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