Culbreth suspended, Porter apologizes for interpreting rule incorrectly
By Alden Gonzalez
CHICAGO -- There was a moment late Thursday night -- albeit a very brief one -- when Angels manager Mike Scioscia doubted himself, a few hours after vehemently arguing that Astros skipper Bo Porter was not allowed to bring in two relievers without his first one facing a batter.
"I will admit," Scioscia said from U.S. Cellular Field on Friday, "that after we were sitting there talking about it and we were so adamant, I was thinking, 'God, am I really that screwed up?'"
As expected, though, he wasn't.
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.
On Friday, in a rare form of punishment, Major League Baseball suspended umpire Fieldin Culbreth for two games for what took place while he served as crew chief at Minute Maid Park on Thursday, when he allowed Porter to make a couple of pitching changes -- for lefty Wesley Wright, then for righty Hector Ambriz -- with two on and two outs in the seventh.
Scioscia vehemently argued against it, citing Rule 3.05(b), which clearly states the only way that can take place is if the previous pitcher was hurt (which Wright wasn't). At that point, he informed the umpiring crew that the Angels would play the rest of the game under protest.
Scioscia then had a message for his team: "I said, 'Guys, I'm 99.9 percent sure that we have two free innings here, so let's just try and go win the game, and if we don't, we'll get a second crack at it here next month.'"
A protest hasn't been upheld since 1986, and since the Angels came back to beat the Astros, 7-6, it was rescinded anyway. But MLB still followed up with punishment on Friday, also fining Culbreth and the rest of his umpiring crew an undisclosed amount, and Porter offered up a public apology.
The first-year manager was adamant following the game that he was allowed to make a pitching change because the Angels had brought in a pinch-hitter (Luis Jimenez) after Wright was announced as being in the game. Later, though, he was informed that Wright should have faced the batter.
"I would say the first thing is me, personally, I want to apologize to their whole crew for putting them in that position," Porter said Friday. "And it's unfortunate for the game of baseball, but at the same time, I had a chance to speak to [Culbreth] last night after the fact, and he called over and I stand corrected of my thought process and interpretation of what it is I believed the rule to be. I want to give them my apology, and I wish the whole thing never happened."
Scioscia took the high road while following up prior to the series opener against the White Sox, choosing not to pile on to an umpiring crew that has caught a lot of heat recently, because of Thursday's rules misinterpretation and because of Wednesday's home run fiasco in Cleveland.
Scioscia, who serves on Commissioner Bud Selig's Special Committee for On-Field Matters, called it "just an isolated, unfortunate incident as far as application of the rules" and said he doesn't need an apology from anybody.
Culbreth declined to go into detail on the matter when approached by a pool reporter after Thursday's game, but Scioscia doesn't believe umpires have an accountability issue.
"One thing I have found is that in the course of, especially with Joe Torre and Major League Baseball, I think there is accountability that is there," Scioscia said. "It might not always show its face, but I know behind the scenes it's there, and [the suspensions are] one example."