Maddon weighs in on pickoff rule change

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Tony La Russa visited Port Charlotte this past week to inform the Rays about some rule changes going into place this season. Among those brought to light by the special assistant to the Commissioner was the one that declared that a pitcher can no longer fake a throw to third then throw to first. Doing so will now result in a balk.

Joe Maddon wasn't crazy about the change, noting that the play was "misunderstood."

"A lot of people thought it was a worthless move that had no significance because nobody was picked off," the Rays manager said. "And that was the furthest thing from the truth."

Maddon pointed out basestealers will love the change. He believes the reason the rule change was made was to try and loosen up the offense.

"That's exactly what's going to happen," Maddon said. "It puts a lot more pressure on the pitcher. A lot more pressure on the defense."

Desmond Jennings, the Rays' most prominent basestealer, agreed with his manager that the change should make a big difference.

"As a baserunner, you're going on the [pitcher's] first move," Jennings said. "With a runner on third you've had to wait and see if he was going to go to third or first, or whatever. Now you don't have to worry about it. You treat it like you're the only person on base."

Maddon believes that the threat of executing the play was part of the play's effectiveness.

"It was always there to be had, it just becomes a little more comfortable to do certain things, the stolen base in particular because the threat of the stolen base is gone," Maddon said. "I've had a lot of good baserunners, basestealers, that was very uncomfortable for them to get a good jump with a runner on third base. For all those sportscasters for years who said they've never seen that play work, they're totally wrong."

Jennings smiled when asked if the change could mean an extra 10 or 15 steals for him this season.

"I hope so," he said. "We'll see."