Hinch ejected, heated exchange ensues

Astros skipper restrained in argument with Angel Hernandez

March 16th, 2019

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros manager AJ Hinch was ejected one pitch into the bottom of the first inning of a split-squad game on Friday by home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez.

Cardinals starter Daniel Ponce de Leon’s first pitch to George Springer was called a strike, bringing Hinch out of the Astros dugout and setting off an extended, heated argument with Hernandez.

First-base umpire C.B. Bucknor intervened, but as the conversation continued, Hinch became more agitated, and eventually he had to be restrained by hitting coach Alex Cintron.

“I should thank C.B. -- he was the voice of reason. He always is,” Hinch said. “C.B. is super calm about it. He just wanted the game to continue. Unusual in March, unnecessary in March. But I guess the adrenaline kicked in for everybody.”

According to Hinch, the argument had a little bit of carryover from a conversation he and Hernandez had last week.

"I know Angel gets really frustrated when guys question him in balls and strikes," Hinch said. "He told me he gets four wrong a game. I kept that in mind."

Hinch did not like some of Hernandez's calls while Forrest Whitley was pitching in the top of the first.

"The inning continued and it cost Forrest a few pitches," Hinch said. "In between innings, I called [Hernandez] over and had a calm conversation with him and said, 'We have technology to help you get better, that these pitches are strikes.' He had a kind of arrogant attitude about it and didn't want to hear it."

Springer took the first offering from Ponce de Leon, which Hernandez called a strike. Hinch felt the call was "probably to spite me. And off we go."

Hinch said Hernandez said some "condescending things that are inappropriate, unprofessional. I'll leave it at that."

What did Hinch say to Hernandez?

"I said, 'You've used up your four bad calls,’" Hinch said.

Asked to respond to Hinch's claims, Hernandez offered a pool reporter no comment, but added, loudly, "He got ejected for balls and strikes."

Hinch's ejection didn't come without oddities. First, he had to make the long walk to the Astros' clubhouse, located behind left field, in plain view, because Spring Training ballparks don't come with behind-the-scenes tunnels and hallways that are standard in Major League facilities.

On his way, Hinch stopped to give third-base umpire Mike Estabrook an earful before continuing the journey to his office.

"I didn't have anywhere else to go," Hinch said. "I walked. I let the third-base umpire know what I thought and I kept walking. I had to go the full 337 feet or whatever it is to left field. I took it one step at a time."

That wasn't the only semi-humorous element of this evening. Friday was a split-squad day for the Astros and Cardinals -- each team hosted a game with the other. Jupiter, home of the Cardinals, is 15 minutes away.

Hinch opted to stay put in West Palm Beach, but the thought did cross his mind to maybe hop in his car and go manage the other game.

"I don't know the rules on that," he said. "I don't know if it's ejection by one game, or ejected by both games. I stayed here in the office."