DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays and Pirates got a test run through the new Major League Baseball rules surrounding slides at second base as Sunday afternoon's 3-2 Blue Jays win ended when Antoan Richardson was called out for runner interference.
Pittsburgh entered the top of the ninth trailing by a run, but they were threatening with two runners on and one out when Jason Rogers stepped to the plate against ambidextrous Blue Jays pitcher Pat Venditte. Rogers hit a grounder to short, and when Blue Jays second baseman Darwin Barney made the pivot at second base, he was hit by a sliding Richardson.
Barney's throw to first base was delayed and Rogers would have been safe, but instead second-base umpire Eric Cooper ruled him out for a double play. The explanation given to Pittsburgh was that Richardson didn't start his slide into the bag quite soon enough.
Under the new Rule 6.01(j), runners sliding on potential double plays are required to make a bona fide attempt to reach and remain on the base. Runners are specifically prohibited from changing their pathway to the base or utilizing a "roll block" for the purpose of initiating contact with the fielder. The play is reviewable.
"Late slide," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said after the game. "When I looked at it, I thought he couldn't hold the bag so maybe he'd gone by, but this is the opportunity for us to go back, look at it, give our feedback, talk to one of the officials and continue to learn together."
Difficult decision looms large
Gavin Floyd and Aaron Sanchez seem to be making it more difficult for the Blue Jays to pick their fifth starter every time they take the mound.
Each pitcher has attempted to take ownership over the spot with solid outing after solid outing, and Sunday afternoon it was Floyd's turn. The veteran righty took over for Arnold Leon in the top of the fourth and tossed 4 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing four hits and two walks while striking out two.
Neither pitcher has done anything to justify losing the spot, and that's one reason the decision on who ultimately becomes the fifth starter will be about a lot more than the recent results.
"I don't know necessarily that it's coming down to who pitched better than the other, because they both have been so good," manager John Gibbons said. "Just how's the team best [off], you know?"
Right-handers Drew Hutchison and Jesse Chavez are also technically in the mix for the fifth spot, but at this point in time it appears to be a two-man race between Floyd and Sanchez. Hutchison has options and can be sent to the Minors to start the year while Chavez likely will begin in the bullpen.
Floyd has made his case by allowing three runs over 12 1/3 innings this spring, while Sanchez has given up three runs over 13 2/3 innings. So far, Gibbons has liked everything he has seen.
"Very good once again," Gibbons said following Floyd's latest outing. "He throws strikes, and he has a nice little breaking ball working. He attacks, he has a very aggressive mentality, he always had that when we faced him, one thing I always liked about him. You really like seeing it when it's on your side."