Pitching rule change confuses Marlins’ Nolasco

Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco was charged with a ball Wednesday

night when he tried out a new rule that allows pitchers to touch

their fingers to their mouths while still on the mound, and got it

wrong.

Nolasco licked his fingers while standing on the rubber with New

York Mets cleanup hitter Mike Jacobs at the plate in the first

inning.

A rule change put into effect by the Official Playing Rules

Committee this offseason allows a pitcher to go to his mouth on the

mound, but not while he is touching the rubber. Previously pitchers

were only allowed to touch their fingers to their lips and mouths

off the mound, provided they wipe their hand before gripping the

ball.

The rule was changed to help speed up the game.

Mets reliever Fernando Nieve was penalized on opening day when

he failed to wipe his hand before gripping the ball.

Crew chief Wally Bell explained after the game Monday that

pitchers still need to wipe their hands regardless of if they are

on the dirt or the grass.

“You can go to your mouth on the dirt – not on the rubber – but

you have to wipe,” Bell said.

Nolasco did exactly what was not allowed. While on the rubber

and looking in to catcher John Baker, he touched his mouth to his

hand. Home plate umpire Laz Diaz immediately signaled ball and

Nolasco appeared agitated.

Bell, the third base umpire, ran in to explain the call. Florida

manager Fredi Gonzalez came out of the dugout to get clarification

and calm his pitcher.

“There was confusion on the pitcher’s part. He didn’t

understand the rule,” Bell said after the Marlins beat the Mets

7-6 in 10 innings on Wednesday night. “Since it’s a new rule I

went out there and said what happened.”

Nolasco said he didn’t know the rubber was off limits, but he

didn’t think the rule would be a problem in future starts.

“Here’s a rule because it’s something new, people are going to

look at it,” Bell said, “and it happened on back to back

nights.”

Nieve, who was standing on the grass when he wet his fingers,

said Wednesday he was confused by the new rule, which was explained

to the players during spring training. New York pitching coach Dan

Warthen, however, said Nieve just forgot he had to wipe off his

fingers.

Warthen thinks the rule change will help the pace of game, but

not until pitchers adapt their routine to the alteration.

“It should expedite the game, when they start to get the feel

for it,” Warthen said. “I don’t know how incrementally but it

should help some.”