MLB exec cites pace of game 'province'

Updated: November 2, 2009, 8:03 PM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- All those meetings on the mound called by catcher Jorge Posada and the New York Yankees are giving Major League Baseball pause, too.

Posada and pals visited pitcher CC Sabathia eight times -- in a single inning -- on Sunday night, grinding Game 4 of the World Series to a standstill. Agitated Phillies fans booed each trip.

CC Sabathia & Jorge Posada
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesMLB rules don't limit players' meetings at the mound, a freedom the Yankees have taken full advantage of in the World Series.

MLB vice president of umpiring Mike Port said frequent mound meetings by all teams likely would be discussed by baseball officials this offseason.

"It would fall under the province of pace of game," Port said before the Yankees beat Philadelphia 7-4 to take a 3-1 Series lead.

Baseball has tried speed-up rules and guidelines in recent years, with varying results. Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon was fined a few times this season and even had a ball called on him for taking too long to pitch. Hitters are encouraged to stay in the batter's box.

One trip to the mound is allowed per inning -- by a manager or coach -- before a pitcher must be pulled. There is no limit, however, on players-only meetings.

The Yankees held six in the first inning of Game 4. Then came eight more -- four alone with Jayson Werth hitting -- in the fifth. Damaso Marte relieved Sabathia in the seventh. After two pitches, Posada made the 60-foot, 6-inch trudge yet again.

Sabathia wound up striking out Werth with two runners on. Perhaps the Phillies could have used a meeting to figure out who covers third base if Johnny Damon steals second against an overshifted infield.

"It's just part of the game," Posada said. "We want to talk with each other so we know what we're doing."

Plate umpire Brian Gorman clapped his hands while Posada and Andy Pettitte met in Game 3, trying to hurry them along. The PA system at Citizens Bank Park played "Fly Like an Eagle" by the Steve Miller Band -- the song starts out "Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future" -- when Posada and Sabathia talked.

The World Series opener lasted 3 hours, 27 minutes. The next three games all took exactly 3:25.

Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett and personal catcher Jose Molina visited seven times during an inning in the AL Championship Series. New York pitching coach Dave Eiland made no apology.

You can't take away the beauty of the game. I know fans get upset and I know Major League Baseball may get upset with that. But that's part of the game.

-- Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland
on the thought of a rule that would govern catchers' trips to the mound

"Every pitch is a big pitch this time of year. Seriously. You want to make sure everything's covered," Eiland said Sunday night.

As for making a rule limiting catchers' trips to the mound, Eiland scoffed.

"No, don't take three minutes between innings. You know how many times a pitcher is standing on the mound waiting for the umpire's call to throw the first pitch?" he said.

"You can't take away the beauty of the game," Eiland said. "I know fans get upset and I know Major League Baseball may get upset with that. But that's part of the game. There's no rules against it, and I don't see any rules changing for that. That would be ridiculous."

Sabathia had no problem with the confabs, either.

"We were just trying to make sure we were on the right page, getting the pitches right, whatever it takes. There's really no time limit on the game," he said.

The Yankees' mound visits throughout the postseason can serve another purpose. In a sport that's not supposed to have timeouts, it can help slow opposing hitters.

"Sometimes it's a momentum-breaker," Eiland said. "If we feel like they have the momentum we kind of want to take a little momentum timeout and stop it and regroup, and I want to make sure the pitcher's mind is right. So a lot of things go into it."

Added Yankees manager Joe Girardi: "There's a lot of situations."

"Sometimes it's easier to go talk about what you want to do as opposed to putting down signs and then keep shaking," he said before Game 5 Monday night.

Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino dismissed speculation that the Yankees held so many meetings because Philadelphia was swiping their signals.

"Obviously," he said, "if we're stealing signs we would be doing better than what we're doing right now."

Actor Robert Wuhl found it all amusing.

Wuhl portrayed coach Larry Hockett in the movie "Bull Durham" and made a much-quoted trip to the mound when the guys got stuck on what to get a teammate and his bride for their wedding. "Candlesticks always make a nice gift, and maybe you could find out where she's registered ... maybe a place setting, or a silverware pattern. OK? Let's get two," Hockett said.

Wuhl was behind the backstop watching the Yankees take batting practice before Game 5. He'd also noticed New York's many meetings.

"Here's what I don't get in baseball," Wuhl said. "You have a Korean pitcher, a Dominican catcher, a first baseman from French Canada and a third baseman from Mississippi, and they can't understand each other already. Then they cover their mouths with their gloves. Then the catcher puts down one finger for fastball. What was that all about?"


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press