ANAHEIM – School was in session before the Oakland A’s opened up a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels.
The A’s devoted a chunk of time during their advance meeting – held before the first game of every series – to review the glove-to-hand “exchange” rule that has caused so much havoc for them on the base paths.
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First base coach Tye Waller – Oakland’s baserunning guru – had plenty of instruction for his players, but he added that coaches also have to change the way they watch the game.
“We all gotta develop new instincts,” Waller said Monday.
The “exchange” rule has been in the book before this season, but it’s being much more strictly enforced in 2014. If a fielder, after catching a fly ball, drops the ball before completely transferring it from his glove to his throwing hand, it is ruled a no-catch. It’s caused confusion for the A’s, as base runners have turned their back on the fielder and started retreating to the base they came from, only to be surprised the ball was ruled a drop.
Josh Donaldson was forced out at second base on the last homestand on such a play against the Mariners. Over the weekend in Seattle, Brandon Moss was ruled out when he passed Donaldson between first and second as Donaldson was retreating, again unaware an apparent catch was ruled a drop.
In the same game, Yoenis Cespedes was thrown out at first on a liner to left field – the Mariners’ Dustin Ackley fumbled the exchange and Waller couldn’t get the attention of Cespedes, who was already trotting back to the dugout.
“I saw him catch the ball, I turned to look at Cespedes,” Waller said. “He had given up on the play. The noise of the crowd alerted me, but by the time I was able to say something, there was no way. So that’s what told me I gotta change.”
As for the base runners themselves, Waller said they simply need to follow the play longer. It means looking over their shoulder as they’re retreating back to a base. But it also might mean not wandering so far off the base, which can necessitate a sprint back to the bag they came from.
“It’s gonna take some time, but I think its’ just a conscious adjustment that as we get use to the new rules, we’ll adjust to it,” Waller said. “I want them watching the play just like me. I’m a backup.”