NEW YORK >> Major League Baseball is reviewing how an umpire got hit this week by a pitch that a catcher missed in a game between the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians, a person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press.
Plate umpire Quinn Wolcott was struck in the left shoulder on Sept. 13 by a fastball from Detroit’s Buck Farmer that sailed past the mitt of backup rookie catcher John Hicks.
Two batters earlier, Wolcott had ejected catcher James McCann and manager Brad Ausmus after a close pitch to Cleveland’s Jay Bruce was called ball four.
MLB was checking the circumstances of Wolcott being struck, the person said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because MLB was still looking into the matter.
Wolcott was knocked over by the impact of Farmer’s pitch. As he was being examined by a trainer and talking to the other umpires, Wolcott appeared on a TV replay to ask them: “They didn’t do it on purpose, did they?”
The Tigers had bickered with Wolcott throughout the game about his strike zone before he was hit. After Detroit lost 5-3, Farmer and Ausmus vehemently denied any intent to deliberately hit Wolcott, who remained in the game after being hit in the third inning.
Hicks understood the timing of the play made it look suspicious.
“Obviously, it looks bad right after Brad and Mac get tossed, but its bases loaded, we’re trying to win a baseball game,” he said. “Any thoughts of us trying to do that on purpose are just ridiculous.”
After his ejection, Ausmus watched the game on TV and was upset there was an inference the Tigers had targeted Wolcott.
“I heard the Indians broadcast, to imply that that was intentional, is first of all, it’s a lie,” Ausmus said. “But if any player intentionally tried to hurt an umpire and his team, we’d deal with that severely.”
A major league catcher for 18 seasons, Ausmus said the circumstances alone would rule out any intent.
“It’s bases loaded, so why you would attempt something like that, even if it crossed your mind to attempt it, why would you do it with the bases loaded?” he said. “Hicks was going fastball away, Farmer shook, he was going with a slider away, Farmer went into his delivery, Hicks assumed a slider was coming, and it was a fastball, and he was just late getting there. But for anyone to imply that that was intentional, that’s just completely wrong.”
While the play may look suspect, Farmer was also adamant nothing devious was going on.
“The fact that’s even a question is appalling,” Farmer said. “It shouldn’t be a question. When you look at the situation it’s stupid to even think about. It shouldn’t even be a thought from anybody that Hicks and I would do that.”