MLB suspends umpire, fines others for blown call

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Angels manager Mike Scioscia argued Thursday night that an Astros reliever should have been forced to face at least one batter before being taken out. MLB agreed with him.  PAT SULLIVAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
PAT SULLIVAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Angels manager Mike Scioscia argued Thursday night that an Astros reliever should have been forced to face at least one batter before being taken out. MLB agreed with him.

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball suspended umpire Fieldin Culbreth for two games on Friday because he was in charge of the crew that allowed Astros manager Bo Porter to improperly switch relievers in the middle of an inning.

Culbreth and the rest of his crew – Brian O’Nora, Bill Welke and Adrian Johnson –were also fined an undisclosed amount, after MLB admitted its umps goofed for the second consecutive day.

“The rule covering pitching changes was not applied correctly by the umpiring crew,” MLB said in a statement.

The problem in Houston came a day after Angel Hernandez and his crew in Cleveland failed to reverse a clear-cut home run after looking at a video review. MLB vice president Joe Torre said the umpires made an “improper call.”

It’s recently been a rough run for umps.

Crew chief Tom Hallion was fined earlier this month after getting into a verbal spat with Tampa Bay pitcher David Price.

The latest trouble occurred in the seventh inning at Minute Maid Park. And while baseball does have video replay for some hard-to-tell calls – and has talked for a couple of years about expanding its scope – there was no mistaking what umpires saw.

With two outs and the Astros ahead 5-3, Houston reliever Wesley Wright came in from the bullpen and threw several warmup pitches from the mound. Porter, a first-year manager, then ran onto the field to stop him and brought in another reliever, Hector Ambriz.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia argued, correctly contending Wright was required to pitch to at least one batter. But the umpires permitted Ambriz to stay in and Scioscia put the game under protest – it became moot when the Angels rallied to win 6-5.

Pinch-hitter Luis Jimenez was on deck when Wright entered. Once Ambriz took over, Scott Cousins came up as a pinch-hitter.

On Friday Porter was upset that he caused the problem.

“Personally I want to apologize to their whole crew for putting them in that position,” he said. “It’s unfortunate for the game of baseball.”

Culbreth provided little clarification after the game.

“Well, the only thing I can tell you is that all matters concerning protests are handled through the league office,” he said.

Porter said he spoke with Culbreth after the game and apologized to him when he realized he was wrong. But he wanted he still wanted to make a public apology.

“There are some repercussions, and again as I sit here today, it’s more that I feel sorry for the crew chief and the crew for having to wear what it is that happened last night,” Porter said.

Wright, one of the pitchers involved in the fiasco, thinks it’s unfortunate that Culbreth was suspended. He said when it happened; he figured he was going to have to stay in to face a batter.

“When they told me I was out of the game I was just kind of like: ‘Maybe I don’t understand the rule,’” he said. “It was just one of those weird situations.”

A day earlier, a mistake in Cleveland caused a lot of commotion.

Adam Rosales and the Athletics were certain he’d hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning against the Indians. Three umpires went to a video review and instead upheld the original call on the field that the ball didn’t clear the left-field wall.

Oakland manager Bob Melvin was ejected and was later contacted with MLB officials.

The mistake drew attention all over the majors. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said he’d never before seen an obvious miss despite replay.

“This is the first one where there definitely is a line drawn where you go, ‘Wow,’” he said.


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