ORLANDO, Fla. - Major League Baseball expects to have one, and possibly two, significant rule changes in place for next season as discussions continued Tuesday on instant replay and preventing collisions at home plate.
Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, addressed both subjects at the general manager meetings, saying that instant replay remains on schedule for 2014 with a new collision rule likely as well. According to Torre, the owners could vote on replay during Thursday's general assembly here, but there is more conversation needed on the home-plate issue.
Torre visited the Arizona Fall League last week to see the first test run of the proposed video-review system and came away pleased by the results. He said the average time for each review was roughly 1 minute, 40 seconds, but the details of the process itself have not been finalized.
"We're about as far along with the knowledge we have as we can go," Torre said. "There's still certain things we have to decide on -- the triggering mechanism and things like that. Stuff that doesn't really affect what we're going to do. Just how we're going to do it. We've got the technology we feel can do it quickly."
MLB still plans to use a central office in New York to monitor the video reviews, just as it outlined in August at those owners meetings in Cooperstown, with managers having the ability to challenge disputed calls. How that will happen on the field has yet to be determined, and MLB is waiting on a final approval from both the umpires' union and the Players Association.
"We have to make sure the umpiring on the field doesn't get punished for this," Torre said. "We may have replay, but it doesn't mean that we're going to sacrifice the quality of the umpires."
On the subject of collisions, Torre sounded optimistic that a rule designed to better protect both the catcher and base-runner would be ironed out in the near future, if not in time for Opening Day.
With so much concern about concussions along with other serious injuries at the plate, Torre believes that a new rule has to be implemented, and says he's far from alone.
"It's something that you can't ignore," Torre said. "We've got to find a way. Something has to be done because the players are bigger, stronger, faster -- just like in other sports. They've made adjustments and rules in other sports for that reason, to protect people. We have a great game and we want to keep the players on the field."
Two managers and former catchers, the Giants' Bruce Bochy and Cardinals' Mike Matheny, were the ones to bring the issue to Torre's attention. Both will discuss the matter again with Torre during the winter meetings next month in Orlando, and GMs have asked to participate in those conversations.
Like replay, it's also a complicated problem. Figuring out how to govern plays at the plate to minimize the danger is not so straightforward when factoring in off-target throws or when a catcher is in position or not.
"The one thing I didn't want to do is lose the sense of how important it is to score a run," said Torre, a former catcher himself.
As for the details, they still need to be worked out.
Said Torre, "We don't know what we're going to do about it yet."