Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon apologized to Jerry Layne's umpiring crew on Tuesday for a misunderstanding that took place during his squad's 8-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night.
During the eighth inning, Maddon utilized outfielder Sam Fuld(notes) as a pinch hitter for pitcher J.P. Howell(notes). Nothing unusual there. However, when the bottom of the inning rolled around, Maddon, who had changed his mind about which pitcher he wanted to use, sent Fuld out to the mound to kill some necessary time. That wouldn't be an unusual tactic if Fuld was a pitcher that was already established in the game.
But the move went through anyway.
"I wasn't quite sure what the heck I was doing out there," said Fuld, who hasn't pitched in a game since his junior year of high school. "This is like a position player's dream in a lot of ways. I looked up at the radar, I didn't get a reading. I was thinking, just don't get hurt."
Here's what happened: Fuld didn't want to get hurt, and he didn't get hurt, but according to crew chief Jerry Layne, it was communicated to home plate umpire Bob Davidson that Fuld was experiencing soreness. That allowed Maddon to remove him without throwing a pitch and gave Ramos all the time he needed to get ready if he wasn't already.
Jerry Layne was quoted in an MLB.com article that has since been updated without his quotes. This is what he said prior to Tuesday's game:
"Fuld went out there, and from what I understand, [home-plate umpire Bob Davidson] was told that he was sore or couldn't pitch or something," Layne said. "He's supposed to pitch to a batter unless he's incapacitated, but we're not doctors."
"It's a situation where, if they do something like that, they're circumventing the rules, but as an umpire, there's nothing we can do about it," Layne said. "If that's what we're told -- he's hurt, or whatever -- we're not doctors. Can you imagine if we had a guy who stayed out there because we said, 'No, you have to pitch to one batter,' and then he throws out a rotator cuff?"
Sounds very sneaky, but Maddon insists he wasn't trying to finagle the rules in any way.
"I wasn't trying to get away with anything,'' he said. "I was not aware of that, I was not clear on that. That is my fault, nobody's elses.''
So what rule did Maddon claim to not understand? Try Rule 3.08 (a).
It was his belief that once Fuld completed his at-bat, he had fulfilled his actions for replacing Howell. Which is true. But what Maddon didn't understand — or so he says — was that by having Fuld warm up, he was no longer just a batter and was now locked into that spot in the order as the pitcher, meaning he was expected to face at least one batter.
As someone who rated Joe Maddon as the best manager in last season's playoffs, I don't know whether I should bow my head in shame or heap praise upon him. He either didn't understand a rule similar to a National League manager not understanding you lose the designated hitter once he's moved to a position in the field, or he's an evil genius not afraid to bend any and all rules in his favor.
I'm leaning latter, but whatever the case is, Maddon is comfortable playing dumb, while making the umpires he apologized to look even worse by flatly denying ever communicating an injury.
"I think it was a total miscommunication, I never said anything about an injury,'' Maddon said. [...]
"We got away with violating a rule," Maddon said. "There was no shenanigans or misinformation, I just think it was a miscommunication between me and [home-plate umpire] Bob Davidson. And quite frankly, I don't understand why there's been such a big deal made about it. It was a total honest mistake."
By the way, perhaps Maddon would have been better off sticking with Fuld anyway. Ramos would face three batters during his appearance. All three of them reached base and two scored, forcing Maddon to go deeper into his bullpen than he would have liked after entering the inning with a seven-run lead.
Funny how things work out sometimes. Also funny how Bob Davidson's name pops up in so many discussions about weird umpiring decisions.
What do you think? Honest mistake or are you calling shenanigans on Maddon?