CLEVELAND — Elliot Johnson got his second start of the season in right field during the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader against San Diego, but Wednesday was one of those days that he would like to quickly move on from.
Johnson was involved in a controversial replay challenge during the first inning and then was unable to move over the potential tying run during the eighth of the Indians’ 2-1 loss.
After San Diego’s Everth Cabrera got on to lead off the game on a throwing error, Chris Donofria hit a ball to the warning track in right that Johnson appeared to catch after a long run. He made two strides and crashed into the fence in front of the Padres’ bullpen. Johnson then made another two steps and then dropped the ball as he tried to transfer the ball to his hand to make a throw.
First-base umpire Bob Davidson said Johnson did not have control of the ball long enough for it to be a catch. Manager Terry Francona came out to challenge the play but the play stood.
Everyone was confident that the play would be reversed, which brought up plenty of second guessing after the game.
"If anything maybe they called traveling because he took about three steps," Francona said. "I know they are going to enforce that rule more this year. I thought he still caught it but I also know they will enforce it differently than the past."
The play was similar to one in Monday’s Texas-Boston game where shortstop Elvis Andrus was ruled not to get the out during a play at second base. Andrus made a clean catch but dropped the ball after pulling it out of his glove.
MLB officials told The Dallas Morning News on Tuesday that: "umpires and/or replay officials must consider whether the fielder had secured possession of the ball but dropped it during the act of the catch. An example of a catch that would not count is if a fielder loses possession of the ball during the transfer before the ball was secured by his throwing hand."
For the amount of steps that he took with the ball, Johnson felt like he made a clean catch and should have had the out. Mixing metaphors he said he didn’t know if he "got my two feet in or not or if I made enough of a baseball move."
Johnson added: "I made the catch, I hit the wall or the fence with possession of the ball. I took 6-7 steps with the ball. Can we get some common sense here? They are trying to set precedent and enforce a rule. I understand that and realize there are two sides to the rule but I caught the ball. It was a catch, it was an out, let’s move on. It’s not catch and throw. It is two separate things.
"Is there a conflict of interest? Do the umpires in New York not want to overturn it because they are an umpiring crew on a rotation? This is a brand new thing we are bringing into the game but do we need a third party? They are enforcing it to the letter but let’s use some common sense here. I think there needs to be clear what defines the act of dropping it because it can get out of hand."
Even if Johnson had been awarded the out, Cabrera would have remained on third since he tagged up. Cabrera would score on a Seth Smith ground out.
In the eighth Johnson came to the plate with Aviles on first and no out. After fouling off the first two pitches on bunt attempts, Johnson tried to bunt one more time but fouled it off and was called out.
"I have to get the bunt down. The last one I wanted to give myself the opportunity to get the sac and it was my call," said Johnson, who was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. "Tito took it off but I wanted to give myself one more opportunity because it’s my job."