Pitching change confusion leads to 16-minute delay

June 16th, 2022

NEW YORK -- The four umpires assigned to oversee Wednesday's contest at Yankee Stadium spoke in an animated huddle on the infield grass, gesturing toward Yankees manager Aaron Boone to continue toeing the first-base line while they sorted out the confusion of a rule book glitch.

It was the top of the eighth inning and time had essentially frozen. Play halted for 16 minutes in the Yankees' eventual 4-3 victory over the Rays, prompting crew chief Phil Cuzzi to speak with a replay official for confirmation that Boone should be permitted to execute a pitching change.

"That can't happen," catcher Kyle Higashioka said. "It can't take [16] minutes to figure out what's going on. There's got to be somebody that knows what to do. I definitely did not feel good on the field after that long delay. I'm just glad we got through it."

The oddity occurred after Tampa Bay's Randy Arozarena was hit by a pitch from New York right-hander Miguel Castro, drawing pitching coach Matt Blake to the mound. While Blake spoke to Castro, the left-handed-hitting Ji-Man Choi emerged on deck to pinch-hit for Isaac Paredes, a right-handed batter.

Spotting this, Boone decided that he wanted left-hander Lucas Luetge to face Choi. The umpires stopped Boone, initially stating that a change could not be made at that time. Boone insisted it could since Choi had been announced into the game, prompting the umpires to check with replay official Mike Estabrook.

"At first, they were saying we couldn't go back out because once [Arozarena] gets hit, that [next] at-bat is now in play," Boone said. "We can't go out twice within an at-bat. If you announce a pinch-hitter, you can. [Blake] was already out there before they announced that pinch-hitter."

Specifically, the umpires examined Rule 5.10(l)(4), which concerns visits to the mound requiring a pitcher's removal from the game. Per the Official Baseball Rules, "if a pinch-hitter is substituted for this batter, the manager or coach may make a second visit to the mound, but must remove the pitcher from the game."

"Once we determined that Paredes was at bat, they made the change for Choi, so it was legal for them to make the pitching change," Cuzzi said.

According to Cuzzi, Rays manager Kevin Cash said he "felt as though [the Yankees] possibly were circumventing the rule because the pitcher was getting a chance to get good and ready."

Cash later told reporters: "You know what? I don't know. It'd be better off just asking the umpires what exactly took place. I don't have any other comment on it."

Luetge said he didn't begin warming until Choi came on deck, but that he was "more than ready" even without the delay; typically, the lefty said he only needs about five pitches in the bullpen to prepare.

Granted entry, Luetge surrendered run-scoring hits to Choi and René Pinto before retiring Brett Phillips on a flyout to left field.

"It didn't have any effect on me," Choi said through an interpreter. "I was just confused."