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.”