Thursday, April 11, 2013 10:54 pm
Collisions part of the game for Indians' Marson
By TOM WITHERSAP Sports Writer
Days after he was flattened by Tampa outfielder Desmond Jennings in a ferocious and frightening collision at the plate, Marson, Cleveland's backup catcher, has not completely recovered from the impact of a violent play that has sparked debate over whether it should be outlawed from major league baseball.
"I'm feeling better," Marson said Thursday before the Indians and New York Yankees were postponed by rain for the second straight day. "My neck's still sore. But hey, it could have been worse."
So much worse.
Last Saturday in Tampa, Marson came out on the wrong end of a nasty pileup in the dirt around home with Jennings, a former high school football star, who tried unsuccessfully to dislodge the ball from Marson in the third inning. With none out, Jennings broke for the plate on a routine infielder grounder, and at full-speed, plowed into Marson, who had his helmet knocked off and was flattened but held on to the ball for the out.
Marson's head snapped back scarily and he was laid out by Jennings, who lowered his shoulder to deliver the blow. Marson's unprotected head bounced off the ground.
"I don't think it was dirty at all," Marson said. "I didn't give him any place to slide, and the only place he could go was through me. I didn't have time to give something back, so I put my head down and that's why I had all the impact in my neck. I didn't have a concussion or anything so that was good."
However, Marson did wind up on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his career with a strained neck. He came off the bench in Cleveland's home opener on Monday after starter Carlos Santana bruised his left hand on a pitch. Marson played one inning, but he didn't feel right and the Indians put him on the DL the following day.
Marson was surprised to see a photo of his rough run-in with Jennings attached to an internet story by Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci, who advocates banning home-plate collisions or as he called them the "most unnecessary play in baseball."
While Marson is all for reducing the risk of injury, he believes prohibiting the play would be a bad idea.
"You don't want to take it out of the game," he said. "The home run, the triple, the play at the plate, those are the most exciting plays in baseball. You just have to put yourself in the best position to keep yourself safe. I'm surprised I haven't gotten blown up more just because of the way I block the plate. When I first signed, that's how I was taught to block the plate. It was such a bang-bang play that I didn't even feel it."
After getting to his knees, Marson thought briefly about getting up and walking to the mound. But he was a little dazed and decided to stay put.
"I needed a few seconds, and then he (trainer Lonnie Soloff) was there, so I just stayed where I was," Marson said.
Indians manager Terry Francona understands the argument for banning the collision, but he doesn't see how that can be done.
"I really feel strong about this," Francona said. "I don't think you can do that (ban it). As an organization, if you feel like you don't want your catchers to block the plate, you instruct them not to block the plate. But if you go back and look at throws to home, catchers get throws that take them into a runner, you're going to get baserunners hurt - a lot.
"Sometimes guys get hurt, but the easiest thing to do is tell your catcher not to block the plate. It doesn't have to be a rule. I'm not trying to not sound caring. I think you're just going to put people in a worse position."
As a major league catcher for 15 seasons, Yankees manager Joe Girardi was involved in his share of collisions. To Girardi, it was just part of the job.
"I separated a shoulder and broke a nose and I just thought it was part of the game," he said. "I'm fine with what they do either way. It really wouldn't matter to me."
Marson said he was taught early in his career how to block the plate, and still believes it's an essential part of his duties.
"I'm a backup catcher," he said. "I feel like I have to block the plate and not give up that run. That's my job. "I was taught early on that taking a run away at the plate is like hitting a solo homer."
True, but home-run hitters don't wake up with whiplash or minus a few teeth.
Marson knows that any time he puts on his gear there's a chance he may need it to absorb the hit from a charging runner looking to do some damage.
"I won't name names," he said, "but I've played with big guys who weren't going to slide. `I'm either going to blow up the catcher or I'm going in standing up.'
"I'm sure I'll get blown up again someday," he said.
NOTES: No makeup date was announced, but it appears the Indians and Yankees will play a doubleheader on May 13. ... Francona said RHP Zach McAllister, who was scheduled to start Thursday, will now pitch Saturday against the White Sox as Ubaldo Jimenez will be skipped and start Tuesday against Boston. ... Santana caught a bullpen session and took batting practice indoors and is close to returning after bruising his left hand. Francona said Santana told him he could play Friday, but the Indians will cautiously ease their leading hitter back into the lineup. ... LHP Scott Kazmir, out with a strained rib cage, played long toss from 120 feet and reported no problems. He's hoping to pitch a bullpen session Friday and believes he can be ready to pitch when he's eligible to come off the DL on April 17.