May 27, 2022

If a Pitcher Crosses the Foul Line, He Must Pitch to the First Batter

If a Pitcher Crosses the Foul Line, He Must Pitch to the First Batter

Rule 5.10 (i) reads, “If a pitcher who is already in the game crosses the foul line on his way to take his place on the pitcher’s plate to start an inning, he shall pitch to the first batter until such batter is put out or reaches first base, unless the batter is substituted for, or the pitcher sustains injury or illness, which in the judgment of the umpire-in-chief, incapacitates him from pitching.

This relatively obscure rule came alive on May 19th in the Mariners-Red Sox game at Fenway Park. M’s’ manager Scott Servais signaled for Sergio Romo to replace George Kirby to start the bottom of the sixth. But the umpiring crew (Scott Perry, Dan Bellino, Adam Hamari, and Clint Vondrak) reminded Servais that Kirby must face one hitter because he crossed the foul line on his way to the mound and the Red Sox did not have a pinch-hitter.

Kirby proceeded to give up a double to Alex Verdugo that led to a two-run inning. Romo was then allowed to enter the game. At the start of the inning the score was tied 4-4.  The Sox won the game, 12-6.

Ruleball Comment

  1. It should be noted that the rule also includes the following. “If the pitcher ends the previous inning on base or at bat and does not return to the dugout after the inning is completed, the pitcher is not required to pitch to the first batter of the inning until he makes contact with the pitcher’s plate to begin his warm-up pitches.”
  2. With the universal DH, that aspect of the rule is virtually a moot point.
  3. The substitute batter exception to the requirement that a pitcher already in the game must face the first batter to start an inning contained in Rule 5. 10 (i) does not apply to a substitute pitcher who returns for a subsequent inning without having satisfied the three-batter requirement contained in Rule 5.10 (g).
  4. A substitute pitcher who is in the middle of a three-batter requirement at the end of an inning, is not required to continue the following inning. But if he does continue the following inning, he must finish his three-batter requirement even if one or more  pinch-hitters comes to the plate.    

Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant/analyst:  D’backs, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals



He might have known the rule and was taking a shot. There was no penalty for trying to change.

Mark Astolfi

This is hardly the first time a manager didn’t know the rules, but it always surprises me. Isn’t that their job?

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