New Strike Zone-Not For Rangers

Friday, March 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Well, they gave it almost a week.

On Thursday, though, the Rangers finally admitted that they aren't comfortable with the "new" strike zone.

"Usually you hear from either the hitters or the pitchers, but I'm hearing from both," manager Johnny Oates said after a 6-5 come-from-behind win over Toronto at Charlotte County Stadium nearly completed the first week of the exhibition schedule. "I'm seeing a lot of indecision on the baseball field. I'm not sure anybody feels comfortable with what a strike call is right now. I know we've got to be patient, but if the season opened tomorrow, I don't think I'd feel very comfortable."

The confusion stems over Major League Baseball's mandate to enforce a more vertical strike zone, the one written in the rule book. Umpires have conducted seminars for managers and for teams on the new zone. The idea is to do away with the common practice of calling strikes on pitches that are an inch or two off the plate and restore the original strike zone.

So far, the Rangers aren't sure exactly what that means. Rangers hitters contend that pitches wide of the plate are still being called strikes. Rangers pitchers think that umpires have moved not only the top of the zone up, but the bottom as well. Oates sees nothing but utter confusion.

"Right now, I'm not sure whether it's good to make a pitch that we are used to thinking is a good pitch," Oates said. "I'm just a little nervous. I'm not pointing any fingers and I'm not making any excuses, but we've got three weeks to go before the season starts. Is that enough time to iron things out? I don't know."

The most frustrated of the Rangers hitters has been Rusty Greer. Greer has struck out five times in four games. All but one of the strikeouts has been called. Greer was called out on strikes in the sixth Thursday after taking his first walk of the spring in the first.

Greer is one of the Rangers' most disciplined hitters. For his career, he has 1.07-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. This spring, it's 5-to-1. Greer has twice asked umpires for explanations after strikeouts, thinking the pitch was off the plate.

"I've found myself being unsure," he said. "I'm confused over just where the strike zone is. I'm swinging at some pitches I've got no business swinging at, I'm so confused."

"I know exactly what the strike zone is and I'm not going to swing at those pitches," said Rafael Palmeiro, who had 103 walks last season. "I know my strengths and my weaknesses. I will stay within those strengths and swing at the pitches I know I can handle. Right now, there is no consistency to what is being called a strike and what isn't."

Right now, they have no choice but to give the process another week. At least.