The injury to Yankees prospect Gleyber Torres has made Joe Girardi re-examine one of baseball’s newest rules.
Torres, one of the top prospects in baseball, attempted to score from second base on a single and dived headfirst toward home plate in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s game Saturday at Buffalo. He tried to swipe his left hand on the outside of the plate and out of the reach of the catcher, but was tagged hard on the left elbow, which Torres immediately grabbed.
The 20-year-old infielder tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his non-throwing elbow, and Dr. David Altchek will perform Tommy John surgery Wednesday.
The Yankees manager addressed headfirst slides before Tuesday night’s game against the Angels, offering new thoughts about Rule 7.13, implemented in 2014 concerning plays at home.
“I think slides have become a lot more creative at home plate because catchers don’t block the plate,” said Girardi, who caught 1,247 games in his 15-year major-league career. “And now I’m starting to rethink the rule, thinking the baserunners are the ones really at risk here, because you see more guys slide in headfirst than ever before. You see more guys try to do what Gleyber did, where they slide and stick their hand back and his hand kind of got caught. It makes me question.”
Rule 7.13 states a runner cannot initiate contact with a catcher or any fielder at the plate. Catchers are not allowed to block the plate without possession of the ball.
Girardi, who once was invited by former Jets coach Rex Ryan to show quarterback Mark Sanchez sliding techniques, worries about baserunners having to use different strategies sliding into home. “It just seems players are forgetting how to slide today,” he said.
Girardi called the injury a “minor setback” for the highly touted Torres. “It’s frustrating for him and all of us because you wanted to see him play and continue to develop,” Girardi said. “But I think in the whole scope of his career, I don’t think it’s going to be really that big.”
Mason Williams, who was called up Friday from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, regards Torres highly. “He’s a tremendous player, we all know that,” Williams said. “It’s unfortunate to hear what he’s going through.”
Williams complimented how hard Torres plays. “Injuries just happen,’’ he said. “Especially freak injuries, you really can’t control those.”
Williams said he’s discussed headfirst slides with teammates, but added they are often spontaneous.
“It’s just instincts,” Williams said. “When you’re in that moment, you’re not thinking about ‘What do I need to be doing?’ You’re just trying to be safe. Any way you can be safe and grab a base, that’s the way you’re going to slide.”
Girardi figures there’s only so much he can do to keep his players from sliding headfirst.
“You tell your baserunners, ‘Do not slide headfirst,’ but you’re asking someone to make a split-second decision,” Girardi said. “They see a corner of the bag, they think they can manipulate their body to score the run, and every time I see a guy slide headfirst, I cringe.”