Pre-game ‘standoff’: KC Royals pitcher Luke Weaver ejected before game against Mariners

Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Luke Weaver and former teammate and current Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Robbie Ray apparently held their ground a bit too long for the MLB umpiring crew at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday.

Weaver and Ray were both ejected before the game even started, and no physical or oral altercation took place to prompt their early exits. No benches cleared. No heated exchange between the sides.

Instead, a pre-game standoff following the national anthem earned both Weaver and Ray ejections from home plate umpire Adrian Johnson. The game’s first pitch was three minutes later than the scheduled time of 1:10 p.m.

“They’ve sent out a memo before,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “It’s boys kind of being boys. I’ve had it happen before and umpires have come over and say, ‘Listen. Get them off the field or somebody is going to get thrown out. But the next thing you know, he’s ejected.

“It could’ve played out, but fortunately it didn’t.”

The loss of Weaver for Sunday’s game was detrimental for the Royals because he should have been available out of the bullpen for the finale of the three-game series and conclusion of the Royals’ final homestand of the season.

The Royals rallied from a nine-run deficit in the sixth inning to win 13-12. But early on it looked like the Royals might need their long reliever out of the bullpen. Weaver hadn’t pitched in a game since the previous Sunday.

The Royals have a day off Monday.

“It kind of hurt our bullpen a little bit today,” Weaver said. “That’s what bothers me the most, not being able to have a hand in that game if need be. Luckily we did what we needed to do, so it worked out.”

Both Weaver and Ray, who were teammates with the Arizona Diamondbacks, remained in their places along the edge of the warning track and the grass in front of their respective dugouts after the national anthem.

As their teammates and coaching staffs returned to the dugouts in preparation for the game, neither Weaver nor Ray was willing to budge until the other did. As they continued to try to wait each other out, teammates brought Weaver water, fanned him briefly with a towel and even used a massage device on his back as he stood his ground.

“Me and Robbie Ray have known each other for a while,” Weaver said. “We’re pretty good friends. It wasn’t anything planned. It was just that we looked across the line. (We) both saw each other stay for an extra second.

“We’ve seen this thing done before, try to have fun. It’s the last home game. The fans were coming out loud and proud. The teammates were rallying behind me, so it was just trying to have a little fun. Definitely didn’t have an intention to try to hold up the game in any severe way.”

The two players took the standoff all the way up until the game was ready to start, even as Royals starting pitcher Max Castillo threw warmup pitches with the Royals’ defense on the field. When third base umpire and crew chief Marvin Hudson waved them both off the field, each man initially stayed in place.

Weaver eventually moved first, prompting a loud cheer from the Mariners’ dugout.

“I was very surprised that it did happen,” Weaver said of the ejection. “I thought (there would be) some type of warning, or a little bit of, ‘Put it into Mike’s hands to get me off the field.’ That kind of happened pretty quick. When they told me I was out, I was pretty shocked.”

Weaver, whom the Royals acquired from the Diamondbacks in exchange for third baseman Emmanuel Rivera on Aug. 1, has appeared in 11 games for KC, posting a 6.43 ERA with 15 strikeouts, eight walks, a 2.14 WHIP and a .355 opponent’s batting average in 14 innings.

Ray, last year’s American League Cy Young Award winner, has gone 12-10 with a 3.60 ERA in 30 starts this season for the Mariners.