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MLB catchers remain skeptical of Robo Umps, believe it could make field framing obsolete


Andre Cohen

Mets catch prospect Hayden Senger is among a growing list of receivers concerned about how the automated ball-striking system (ABS) would negate the need for field framing, arguably the most defensive skill precious of the position.

“We grow up trying to perfect that move and trying to fool the referees. It kind of takes away the most important part of our game,” said Senger, 24, who reached Double-A last season and is currently in major league spring training with the Mets. “Fpicking up the ball is the most important part of being a receiver.”

Senger has previous experience catching with ABS during his Arizona Fall League tryout. This season, MLB will test Hawk-Eye’s Automated Ball-Striking System (ABS) in Triple-A games and use it to challenge ball and strike calls made by human umpires in Single-A.

MLB tried to fast-track ABS’s rollout to the majors during labor negotiations this offseason, but the union reportedly fought to keep ABS out of the majors until at least the 2023 season.

” I do not think so [automated strike zones are] going to be as effective, and I think the pitcher still needs someone who makes him feel good and who he trusts,” Mets catcher Tomas Nido told the New York Post. “On the surface, you think this is going to completely change the dynamic of the receiving position,” Mets manager Buck Showalter added.

Former MLB catcher Tyler Flowers and current Blue Jays catcher Reese McGuire also expressed concerns about ABS rendering field framing obsolete. Even as the robo umpires calculate their way to the majors, Senger is committed to keeping the skill alive to establish maximum rapport with the pitchers he works with.

“Even if [ABS] comes in, I’m probably still going to frame balls,” Senger said. “It’s good to give the pitcher where he misses, if you just caught [the ball] and send it back, the pitcher might not be so comfortable with you there. It’s always good to make the pitcher feel good about the pitches they throw.

About Betty J. Snyder

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