NEW YORK – Major League Baseball has ruled that the Detroit Tigers did not intend to throw a pitch that struck the plate umpire in the shoulder and knocked him to the ground.
MLB said Friday that Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre reviewed the play and found no wrongdoing and no cause for disciplinary action.
Umpire Quinn Wolcott was hit by a fastball from Detroit’s Buck Farmer during a game Wednesday at Cleveland. Rookie backup catcher John Hicks never touched the ball as it sailed past his mitt.
The incident came two batters after Wolcott ejected Tigers catcher James McCann and manager Brad Ausmus over a close pitch to Cleveland’s Jay Bruce that was called ball four.
As Wolcott was being examined by a trainer and talking to the other umpires, he appeared on a TV replay to ask them: “They didn’t do it on purpose, did they?”
The Tigers had bickered with Wolcott earlier in the game about his strike zone. After Detroit lost 5-3, Farmer, Ausmus and Hicks vehemently denied any intent to deliberately hit Wolcott, who remained in the game after being hit in the third inning.
“MLB takes seriously the safety of on-field personnel – players, coaches and umpires alike – and has thoroughly reviewed the incident,” MLB said in its statement on Torre’s decision.
Shortly before Friday’s ruling was announced, Ausmus said he had spoken to Torre on the day of the play in question. Both Ausmus and Torre were former catchers in the big leagues.
“He called me, and I told him that I wasn’t exactly sure what had happened, because I had been ejected, but that I would call him back after I talked to my players. When I called him back, we talked for about 10 minutes, and Joe understands that things like this happen – he’s been around this game a long time, both as a player and manager,” Ausmus said.
“It is asinine to think anyone did this intentionally,” he said before the Tigers hosted the Chicago White Sox.
“I’ve said my piece,” Farmer said. “People can believe what they believe, but me and Hicks know it wasn’t on purpose.”
Hicks said he hadn’t spoken to anyone from MLB headquarters.
“My biggest question is when Buck and I were supposed to have planned this. I had just come into the game, and it happened on the second batter. I hadn’t gone to the mound or anything. So when did we decide to do this?” he said.
After Wolcott was struck, Hicks picked up the ball near the plate and headed toward the mound. He glanced back and saw Wolcott down on the dirt, then continued out to talk with Farmer.
“That did look bad on the video,” Hicks said. “I knew he got hit, obviously, but I was chasing the ball and when I turned back around, all the umps were running in, so I stayed out of the way.”
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.