Who's on first? Rays' subs lead to Sox's protest

July 25th, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- stood on the mound, confused as to what the discussion was on the field. He had warmed up three times over the last 20 minutes and was waiting on word from the umpires before he resumed throwing.

“Travis [d’Arnaud] was asking me, ‘Hey, do you want to throw a couple?’ and I told him that I was just going to hold off until it’s over,” Kolarek said. “I was pretty much content waiting until it was over. I think everybody understood that I needed a couple, so I threw three [warmup pitches] and I was good.”

The Rays and the Red Sox have played some wacky games, but perhaps the most unique part of the season series occurred on Wednesday in Tampa Bay’s 3-2 win over Boston at Tropicana Field.

In the eighth inning, with the Rays holding a one-run lead, manager Kevin Cash went with Kolarek to start the frame on the mound. Kolarek was tasked with retiring Sam Travis, and after he got him to pop out, Cash went back out to the mound to bring in the right-handed Chaz Roe while moving Kolarek to first base. Ji-Man Choi was removed from the game.

Once Roe retired Mookie Betts, Cash went back to Kolarek to face the lefty-hitting Rafael Devers, with Nate Lowe coming in to play first base. During the substitutions, the Rays lost their designated hitter by moving Kolarek to first base, as he was placed in the No. 3 spot in the lineup -- where DH Austin Meadows previously was -- and slated to lead off in the bottom of the eighth.

Those substitutions caused Red Sox manager Alex Cora to come out to talk to crew chief Angel Hernandez, resulting in a lengthy delay.

“There’s a lot there,” Cora said. “They brought in the lefty for Charlie [Morton] and then they brought in Roe for Choi. They kept the DH at that moment. So they had a pitcher, a first baseman, they had a pitcher on the mound and they still had a DH. It’s kind of hard to explain.”

“I wasn’t privy to all the conversations, especially between Alex and the group over there,” Cash added. “So I’m not exactly sure what was being said.”

Cora and the Red Sox felt that some of the substitutions the Rays made were illegal and ultimately finished the game while playing under protest.

“We felt that they made some illegal substitutions,” Cora said. “It was a mess at one point. I wasn’t able to keep up with Angel. We protested the game. Let’s see where it goes.”

The Rays felt that they didn’t do anything wrong with the moves. It’s a move that Cash and the Rays have done four times over the last two seasons, including earlier this season on April 7 in San Francisco.

“There appeared to be some confusion, but we are confident that we got it right at the end of the day,” Cash said. “My biggest concern was, whatever is taking place, can we speed it up. I have a guy out on the mound that’s kind of just standing there, which is a little uncharacteristic in any game, and it was tight at that point.”

Hernandez said that because Cash originally didn’t tell him where Kolarek was hitting in the lineup, it was his discretion to assign Kolarek’s position in the batting order, according to Rule 5:10.b.

“He wanted to know what was going on, so we told him it didn’t alter the outcome of anything that had happened so far,” Hernandez said about his conversation with Cora. “What we did, which is rule 5:10.b. … in case the manager fails or refuses to make a decision, the plate umpire is authorized to decide the necessary batting order. The umpire’s decision is final.”

Cora said that he didn’t think the decision to put a pitcher at first base broke any rules, but that he had a problem with the way the rule was presented to him.

“We had to bring in a lefty for a lefty hitter that wasn’t there,” Cora said. “I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. It’s the first time I’ve been through this. So we’ll see how it’s handled.”

Ultimately, after a 20-minute delay, multiple conferences and a call to the replay review center in New York, Kolarek needed just one pitch to retire Devers on a grounder to first base. The Rays went on to win the game, and the season series between the two clubs is now tied at six victories apiece.

“I don’t know if I felt like it was 20 minutes,” Kolarek said. “It’s funny how it all played out after the delay, just one pitch. But I was glad. It's always good to get a quick out.”