ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — Umpire Fieldin Culbreth took full responsibility for a misinterpretation of a relief pitcher substitution rule that resulted in fines for his crew, as well as a fine and a two-game suspension for him.
Culbreth, whose crew worked the Tampa Bay Rays’ 6-3 victory over the San Diego Padres on Friday at Tropicana Field, said he’s “absolutely OK with everything” in regards to the discipline presented by Major League Baseball on Friday following an incident Thursday at Minute Maid Park between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels.
“I look at it that baseball has high standards for their umpires, and I have high standards for myself,” Culbreth said to pool reporter Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, “and I didn’t meet those standards (Thursday) night.”
Culbreth, who made his MLB umpiring debut in 1993, allowed an illegal Astros pitching change in the top of the seventh inning Thursday. The sequence began when first-year manager Bo Porter brought in left-handed reliever Wesley Wright. To counter, Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia subbed in right-handed, pinch-hitter Luis Jimenez.
However, Wright never threw a pitch to Jimenez. Instead, Porter raced toward the dugout during warm-ups and signaled for right-handed reliever Hector Ambriz. Scioscia argued, but it was to no avail. Los Angeles, then trailing 5-3, played under protest but eventually won 6-5.
The sequence violated Rule 3.05 (b), which says a pitcher introduced into a game must face at least one hitter, unless illness or injury prevents the act.
“We just got to cross-sectioning different rules within the changing of a pitcher and just had a hard time getting back on track from that,” Culbreth said. “We got confused. … At that point, we thought we were doing right. We now know that we were doing wrong.”
On Friday, Major League Baseball fined Culbreth and his crew — Brian O’Nora, Bill Welke and Adrian Johnson — an undisclosed amount. In addition, Culbreth was suspended two games, a penalty he will serve at a later date.
On Friday, Culbreth was behind home plate, O’Nora at first, Welke at second and Johnson at third.
“I look at it that the players and the managers, they go out and play the game, and it is our job, whether they are knowingly or unknowingly getting outside the boundaries (of the rules) to get them back in, and I fell short of keeping them inside those lines,” Culbreth said. “And that falls on me.”
Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon has been involved in a number of controversial umpire situations this season. On April 8, at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, he argued a game-ending strike call by umpire Marty Foster against the Rays’ Ben Zobrist after closer Joe Nathan’s curveball appeared low and outside.
On April 28, Rays left-hander David Price and umpire Tom Hallion became engaged in a verbal dispute at US Cellular Field in Chicago. It resulted in fines for both men as well as other Rays pitchers.
“You only get a bad reputation if the complaints are not warranted,” said Maddon, who has been ejected three times this season. “I think that’s when you get a bad reputation. I think if you cry wolf, if you argue at the inappropriate times, if you’re always on the field just to make noise, that’s different.
“But I think if they’re warranted, I think then you gain even more respect.”
The Rays and Padres will play the second game of this three-game series at 6:10 p.m. Saturday at Tropicana Field.