6:45 p.m. EDT May 10, 2013
Major League Baseball suspended umpire Fieldin Culbreth for two games and fined him an undisclosed amount after Culbreth’s crew allowed the Houston Astros to make an illegal pitching change Thursday night, a rare public reprimand of an umpire.
Culbreth, the crew chief for the game between the Astros and Los Angeles Angels, will serve his two-game suspension at a time to be determined. MLB also issued fines to the other three members of Culbreth’s crew: Brian O’Nora, Bill Welke and Adrian Johnson.
The suspension comes a day after MLB executive vice president Joe Torre issued a statement confirming that umpire Angel Hernandez erred in failing to overturn a call on video review in a Wednesday game between Cleveland and Oakland, costing the Athletics a game-tying home run. Hernandez was not otherwise disciplined.
As MLB readies for expanded video review, expected to land in 2014, Torre’s statement and Friday’s suspension of Culbreth perhaps indicates an expectation of greater accountability from its umpires.
“Umpires are the custodians of the game here,” said MLB executive vice president Joe Torre in a Friday interview on MLB Network. “They’re the people we all look to. Unfortunately they messed it up.
“It certainly isn’t a reflection of Fieldin Culbreth. I’d go to war to him and still would. No excuse; they just kicked it.”
Thursday’s flap unfolded in the seventh inning, when Astros manager Bo Porter inserted left-handed reliever Wesley Wright into the game, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia countered by sending up pinch-hitter Luis Jimenez, a right-handed batter, with the Astros leading 5-3.
Rule 3.05 (b) states a pitcher inserted into the game must face at least one batter, unless unless injury or illness prevents him from doing so.
Porter lifted Wright before he threw a pitch, calling on right-hander Hector Ambriz.
Scioscia immediately and vociferously argued, and Culbreth and his crew huddled at least three times on the field in an attempt to get the call correct. The Angels played the game under protest but rallied for a 6-5 victory.
Porter, in his first year as a major league manager, later said it was his belief that the rule had been amended to allow a pitching change to occur without a pitcher facing a batter. MLB’s ruling certainly debunked that theory.
Thursday night, Porter called Culbreth and apologized, and on Friday told reporters he felt bad that the umpires had to bear the brunt of his mistake.
Culbreth is in his first year as a crew chief, and has worked two World Series. He made his MLB umpiring debut in 1993.
“Me personally, I want to apologize to the whole crew,” Porter said Friday in Houston. “I stand corrected. Mike Scioscia was right. I feel bad I put (the umpires) in that position.
“It’s an honest mistake, but it’s obviously a mistake that we look at in (MLB) and we don’t want to have mistakes like that.”
Rule 3.05 (b) states: “If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief’s judgment, incapacitates him for further play as a pitcher.”
MLB’s discipline of its umpires is almost always a private matter, as fines issued to umps are rarely acknowledged.
But Culbreth’s suspension is not unprecedented.
In 2007, umpire Mike Winters was suspended on Sept. 27 for the remainder of the season – roughly three games – for his conduct during an argument with then-San Diego Padres outfielder Milton Bradley. The Padres said Winters used profanity, and Bradley tore his ACL when manager Bud Black grabbed him to keep the confrontation from escalating.
In 2012, umpire Bob Davidson was suspended for one game for what MLB termed “repeated violations” in handling situations, culminating in an incident involving Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.
Torre termed the error by Culbreth and crew as “more of a mental mistake.” Culbreth will work behind home plate for Friday’s Tampa Bay Rays-San Diego Padres game in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“I talked to Fieldin a couple times today,” Torre said Friday, “and can’t tell you how bad he feels.”
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
what he must not do = FT = 62 = Illegal pitching change. Unpopular. Booing.
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