Spring training means baseball is back, apparently with or without umpires.
Tuesday’s Orioles-Pirates game was “officially” over after the top of the ninth in a 7-4 home Pirates victory. But both teams opted to play another half inning to get some of their minor leaguers some extra game experience.
This is common in spring training as it serves as a way to get younger players, especially pitchers, some valuable live reps in front of MLB coaching staffs. What is not usual, however, is to do it without referees, which is what happened on Tuesday.
Baltimore’s managers appeared to indicate they wanted to play in the bottom of the ninth, with Pittsburgh agreeing, but at the time, the Pirates’ broadcast showed the umpiring crew well out of Pirates spring training camp in Brandenton, Florida.
“They have dinner reservations,” Pirates announcer Joe Block said.
After a brief discussion between Orioles manager Brandon Hyde and Pirates manager Derek Shelton, the two opted to play without umpires, allowing Orioles catcher Maverick Handley to call balls and strikes.
Handley may have been a bit biased with some of his calls, though catchers are often tasked with calling balls and strikes in MLB intrasquad or simulated game scenarios.
The no-umpire inning even had an extra treat for critics of MLB’s new pitch clock. With no refs to enforce it, the field clock went off, just like old times.
“There are no rules,” Block joked as a Pirates batter hit a pop fly. “You don’t even have to take this. Just say it’s out.”
Still, the odd scene and Block’s commentary provided a fun moment for fans who decided to stick around for a meaningless half-inning of a spring training game.
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