Rays lineup trickery leads to 15-minute delay and Red Sox protest

The Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox had a bit of a kerfuffle on Wednesday afternoon. No punches were thrown and no one was ejected, but there was a 15-minute on-field delay (followed by an additional delay of several minutes), and Angel Hernandez, the umpire with MLB’s worst reputation, was involved.

That’s not being entirely fair to Hernandez, because this starts and ends with the Rays. Manager Kevin Cash likes to get cute with his in-game moves, and Wednesday was one of those days. After retiring one batter in the top of the 8th inning, reliever Adam Kolarek was moved from the mound to first base. First baseman Ji-Man Choi left the game, and reliever Chaz Roe was brought in to face Mookie Betts.

Roe got Betts to fly out, and that’s when things got messy and the game stopped dead. Roe left the game and Kolarek was moved back to pitcher from first base while Nate Lowe came in to play first base. Red Sox manager Alex Cora had an issue with that, and brought it up to Hernandez. Hernandez and the rest of the umpires had a conversation about it, then they talked to Cash, and then to Cora again.

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Alex Cora believes he caught the Rays breaking the rules and had the Red Sox play the rest of their game against the Rays under protest. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Alex Cora believes he caught the Rays breaking the rules and had the Red Sox play the rest of their game against the Rays under protest. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Then Hernandez and another umpire had the headsets brought out and they conferred with the umpire stationed at MLB HQ in New York. And the delay still wasn’t over, because after that, they talked to both Cash and Cora again. That is definitely what everyone tuned in for, right? Scintillating shots of a group of umpires having an intense conversation with a perturbed manager. Baseball at its finest!

Whatever explanation Cora got didn’t make him happy, because the Red Sox played the rest of the game under protest. Play finally resumed after a 15-minute delay — Kolarek threw one pitch to Rafael Devers, who grounded out to first immediately.

But it still wasn’t over. Between the top and the bottom of the inning, Cora continued to talk to the umpires, which led to another on-field delay.

Through all of this, no one really knew what was happening, but with the Rays’ lineup trickery it was almost certainly an issue with the DH. MLB eventually announced Cora’s reason for protesting, but not any game-related specifics.

When a pitcher leaves the mound to officially play a fielding position, MLB rules say that the team gives up the designated hitter, and that the DH’s position in the lineup is “locked.” It can’t be moved or switched, and that’s what Cora thought Cash was doing.

It’s not entirely clear yet if that’s what actually transpired. Maybe Cash was trying to pull a fast one. Maybe Hernandez just didn’t know the rules. Maybe Cora got confused. The Red Sox ended up losing the game 3-2, but who knows if that will be the final result. If the Red Sox’s protest pans out and MLB finds that Cash did break the rules, the end of that game could be replayed.

Or we could just forget all of this happened and move on with our lives, because that’s 15-20 minutes that no one, including everyone on the field in Tampa, is ever getting back.

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