Pirates GM: Change MLB Concussion, Substitution Rules

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At least one MLB general manager is pushing for a rule change that would allow teams to more effectively deal with concussions at the catcher position, while simultaneously taking some of the pressure to remain in the game off the catchers themselves. 

Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the current all-or-nothing substitution rule — if a catcher leaves the game because of injury, he can’t return even if he passes a concussion protocol — actually puts players in danger.

"The player has to feel pressure, as he’s standing there with 10,000 or 30,000 or 50,000 eyes on him, to make a decision, ‘Am I in or out of this game?’ " Huntington said. "He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt."

Huntington’s comments come after Pirates catch Francisco Cervelli suffered a concussion Saturday night — his seventh trip to the concussion IL since 2015 — but stayed in the game, later taking himself out before his next at-bat.

Huntington said he would like for catchers to have the option to take themselves out of the game, get checked out, and then return if they pass a comprehensive concussion test.

The Pirates haven’t officially brought anything up with the league, but it’s a discussion they’ve had internally.

"We’ve talked about it internally. We’ve not presented it to Major League Baseball," Huntington said. "I’m sure now I’m going to get some phone calls, ‘Why didn’t you call us first?’

The rule is specific to the MLB. The NFL, NBA and NHL all allow for player to re-enter the game if they’re cleared of a concussion.

"It used to be, you’d get your bell rung, and you’d stay in," Huntington said. "We shouldn’t do that anymore. We should be understanding what that actually means."

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