May 21, 2024

Tampa Bay Rays Forced to Make a Pitching Change

What happens when a team exceeds its total number of mound visits

Tampa Bay Rays Forced to Make a Pitching Change

The Rays and Red Sox played at Fenway on May 16, 2024. In the bottom of the ninth the Rays led the Sox 7-5. The Sox had Rob Refsnyder on third and Rafael Devers on first and two outs. Jason Adam was on the mound for the Rays ready to face Romy Gonzalez.

Pitching coach Kyle Snyder started to the mound and had crossed the foul line when he was stopped by plate umpire Alex Tosi. The Rays had exhausted their amount of mound visits but lost count. They apparently failed to include the visit that catcher Ben Rortvedt had made to speak with Adam earlier in the inning. If a team has exhausted its mound visits entering the ninth inning, it gets an additional one which was Rortvedt’s visit.

Boston manager Alex Cora correctly argued that because Snyder crossed the foul line, Adam had to come out of the game immediately. After a Crew Chief Rules Check in NYC and a delay of about six minutes, Adam was required to come out of the game and Erasmo Ramirez retired Romy Gonzalez on a 2-2 pitch for his first save since 2020.

Ruleball Comments

The Replay Official wrote, “The umpires on the field came to headset to verify the enforcement of mound visit limits. Per Official Baseball Rule 5.10(m)(4), “A manager or coach who crosses the foul line on his way to the mound after his team has exhausted its mound visits must make a pitching change, unless the pitcher has not pitched to a minimum of three consecutive batters in accordance with Rule 5.10(g).”

If a team has exhausted its four mound visits entering the ninth inning, it gets an additional one. But the Rays used their last one in the ninth when Rortvedt went to the mound as stated above.

Crew chief Phil Cuzzi told a pool reporter that the umpires initially thought, “OK, he never got to the mound, so here we are in the ninth inning with two outs, he never did speak to his pitcher. So, we felt we would let it go. But Alex with the Red Sox naturally came out and said, ‘No, you saw it. No. No. You know the rule.’

“So, we said, ‘We know the rule. Let’s just get a rules check from New York.’ New York confirmed what we knew, and it was very clear that Cash had to come out and change his pitcher. … When I told him that, he had absolutely no question about it. He went right to the mound to change pitchers.”

Then came a lengthy pause, of about six minutes because of the call to New York for the Rules Check and another call to the Tampa Bay bullpen, where Ramírez was the only available reliever remaining.

Cora’s argument was that as soon as Snyder crossed the foul line, the pitching change had to be made immediately. I am sure he was thinking that the long delay in the action benefitted the Rays because Ramirez was given the luxury of the extra time to warmup.

But a section of 5.10 (m) (4) reads, “ In circumstances in which a team is forced to make an unintended pitching change by operation of this Rule, and there is no relief pitcher warming up in the bullpen, the manager or coach who violated the Rule by exceeding his team’s allotted number of mound visits shall be subject to ejection from the game. The umpire may allow the substitute pitcher additional time to prepare to enter the game.” 

Although the umpires could have ejected Cash, I do not think it would be proper in this situation since he was not trying to circumvent the rules. 

This situation is a good lesson for managers and their coaching staffs to be aware of the number of mound visits that are available and how this can impact their bullpen and the game. Cash agreed with the umpires decision and placed the blame on himself.

Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant/analyst:  Angels, D’backs, Dodgers, Mets, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Yankees, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago. 

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