Umpiring crew chief Culbreth suspended
Major League Baseball suspended umpire Fieldin Culbreth for two games on Friday because he was in charge of the crew that allowed Astros manager Bo Porter to improperly switch relievers in the middle of an inning.
Culbreth and the rest of his crew — Brian O’Nora, Bill Welke and Adrian Johnson — were also fined an undisclosed amount, after MLB admitted its umps goofed for the second straight day.
O’Nora, an Austintown native and Fitch High School graduate, has been a full-time major league umpire since 1998.
“The rule covering pitching changes was not applied correctly by the umpiring crew,” MLB said in a statement.
The problem in Houston came a day after Angel Hernandez and his crew in Cleveland failed to reverse a clear-cut home run after looking at a video review. MLB vice president Joe Torre said the umpires made an “improper call.”
The latest trouble occurred in the seventh inning at Minute Maid Park. And while baseball does have video replay for some hard-to-tell calls — and has talked for a couple of years about expanding its scope — there was no mistaking what umpires saw.
With two outs and the Astros ahead 5-3, Houston reliever Wesley Wright came in from the bullpen and threw several warmup pitches from the mound. Porter, a first-year manager, then ran onto the field to stop him and brought in another reliever, Hector Ambriz.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia argued, correctly contending Wright was required to pitch to at least one batter. But the umpires permitted Ambriz to stay in and Scioscia put the game under protest — it became moot when the Angels rallied to win 6-5.
Scioscia wasn’t surprised by MLB’s stern ruling.
“One thing I have found is that in the course of, especially with Joe Torre and Major League Baseball, that I think there is accountability that is there,” he said Friday in Chicago, “that might not always show it’s face but I know behind the scenes is there and this is one example.”
Pinch-hitter Luis Jimenez was on deck when Wright entered. Once Ambriz took over, Scott Cousins came up as a pinch-hitter.
Culbreth provided little clarification after the game.
“Well, the only thing I can tell you is that all matters concerning protests are handled through the league office,” he said.
Porter said he spoke with Culbreth after the game and apologized to him when he realized he was wrong. But he still wanted to make a public apology.