BALTIMORE — Eighteen hours after it occurred, everyone still seems pretty confused about how baseball intends to interpret new slide rule 6.01 (j).
That was the consensus on Sunday morning from both the White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles as manager Robin Ventura was ejected in Saturday night’s contest after his challenge of Manny Machado’s “illegal slide” on a double play that should have resulted in a triple play wasn’t overturned.
The White Sox didn’t receive a third out for interference in the third inning even though Machado slid beyond the bag, grabbed Brett Lawrie’s leg in the process and then reached back to touch the base.
The White Sox believe they didn’t get the call — one Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Saturday he wouldn’t have had an argument against — because Lawrie never attempted to throw to first base for fear he would throw the ball away. The play was similar to one in an April 5 Toronto-Tampa Bay contest that resulted in the end when Jose Bautista’s slide into second base was ruled as interference.
“I don’t know if I’m more or less clear,” shortstop Tyler Saladino said. “After seeing that play, I guess it doesn’t matter how you slide just as long as the guy doesn’t throw the ball. But if you’re on defense, just do an auto-throw over there because that’s what they say.”
Lawrie said he never thought to make the throw to first base to throw out Adam Jones because he felt Machado made contact. Showalter acknowledged Saturday that his All-Star third baseman got “over-aggressive” on the slide. Neither side believes Machado intended to harm Lawrie with his slide. But once he was touched, Lawrie was worried he might throw the ball away, which would allow Jones to advance into scoring position.
“It’s just how the game is going,” Lawrie said. “You put the rule in place, you have just got to follow through with stuff like that. I just think right now there’s such a gray area because there was a lot of trouble that went down after that Tampa game and I think they got a lot of heat because it changed the whole game and the game ended like that. I feel like it’s just a gray area whether they call it or they don’t. It’s just really up to whoever is on the other side of the headphones.”
Showalter admitted after Saturday’s game he was surprised by the outcome even though his team benefitted. Were he in Ventura’s shoes, Showalter would also have asked for the play to be reviewed. He expected crew chief Gerry Davis to emerge from the six-minute-plus delay and inform him Jones was out at first for interference, which would have resulted in the second unorthodox triple play of the month for the White Sox.
“Where we got fortunate is they didn’t attempt to turn the ball over to first base and didn’t feel like it impacted the play, I guess,” Showalter told reporters. “We’re going to look for an explanation, too, because we would have challenged that, too. When I first saw it, I didn’t think we’d have much argument. It’s a little bit of a, I don’t want to say ‘flaw,’ but there’s been some gray area in a lot of people’s minds. But the way to combat it is to not do what we did.”
The White Sox expect the rule will be modified as it goes along. Major League Baseball previously made changes to rules regarding how catchers block the plate and what constitutes a catch after the transfer process was heavily scrutinized via instant replay.
“Every rule we’ve had has done that,” Ventura said. “We’ve always had some unique plays that happen that end up changing if they look at it further. It makes sense that would go along those lines.”
But as Saladino said, the White Sox lost their manager — Ventura’s ejection was the 12th of his career — and what could have been a critical challenge in the process. He and his teammates just want clarity and they’d like it as soon as possible.
“We’re just looking to follow the rules,” Saladino said. “You make a new rule, we’re supposed to follow it. You can’t just keep doing it, that’s the whole adjustment period. We’re trying to make our adjustments to the rules. It’s a new deal. So we just have to finish the play? They could slide however, but if we don’t finish the play, it doesn’t matter how they slide.”
Kris Bryant's ankle is feeling so well, even Sunday's wet and chilly conditions couldn't keep him out of the lineup.
Bryant rolled his right ankle running the bases in Thursday's game and sat out Friday's contest. But an MRI showed just a mild issue and Saturday's rainout helped minimize Bryant's time on the shelf.
Bryant tested his ankle on the slick outfield grass Sunday morning and felt so good, Joe Maddon wrote out Sunday's lineup with the 2015 Rookie of the Year in left field with Tommy La Stella at third base.
"It wasn't terrible," Bryant said. "I've dealt with a lot worse. ... I didn't think much of it. I'm fine. It's good to be out there. Maybe the weather made it a little worse than it was. I feel good."
The Cubs chose to play it safe with Bryant after already covering for the losses of Kyle Schwarber and Miguel Montero in the lineup, but after Sunday's pregame "test," it was all systems go.
"I think that was their concern - if I could run down some balls out there," Bryant said. "I felt fine. I'm going through all the routes and stuff like that. Everything is good to go."
Maddon was open to the possibility Friday of calling upon Bryant to pinch-hit late in the game if he felt up to it, but no such situation arose.
The Cubs manager was intially expecting to be without Bryant for the entire weekend, eyeing a return Monday night in Pittsburgh.
"I didn't know," Maddon said. "I really thought maybe by [Monday] would've been more than likely, but he was adament that he feels great. The training staff said, 'He's fine. Go for it. Don't worry about it.' I'm just following both of those groups with KB saying himself."
Bryant said he's had ankle issues in the past and was in the habit of taping his ankles for every game. But he actually didn't have his ankles taped for a couple games because he had been feeling so good.
Cubs nation can breathe a sigh of relief that the injury was not more serious, so now all Bryant can do is shrug his shoulders and laugh it off.
"Of course something happens [the game I don't tape my ankles] so the baseball gods are telling me to continue to tape my ankle," he said. "Lesson learned."
Bryant has been seeing a lot of time in left field lately with Javy Baez back from the disabled list, La Stella (.400 AVG, 1.203 OPS) mashing and Jorge Soler off to a slow start (.193 AVG, .610 OPS).
Bryant still said he prefers third base, but he's feeling more and more comfortable and confident in the outfield.
Maddon loves Bryant's defense at third base, but considers him a utility guy more so because of the situation the team is in with Schwarber lost for the season and Baez/La Stella adept at third base.
"It's a matter of fitting all the pieces in and then re-shuffling it game-in-progress," Maddon said.
BALTIMORE — David Robertson kept an eye on the White Sox from Alabama by watching games on TV.
The closer, who has been reinstated for Sunday’s series finale against the Baltimore Orioles, prefers his normal view from the bullpen. Robertson is available for duty after he returned to the club Sunday morning. He missed the previous three games to attend the funeral of his father-in-law, who passed away Monday after a nine-month battle with cancer. The White Sox optioned Tommy Kahnle to Triple-A Charlotte to make room for Robertson.
“I tried to keep up with the games,” Robertson said. “Watched (Saturday’s) game, which is the weirdest thing I think I’ve ever done. Watching a full game, seeing everyone come in. Was yelling at the TV. It’s harder watching a game on TV than it is being here in person to watch it. I was glad, it was a great win for the guys.”
Robertson — who has eight saves, a 0.87 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings — stayed with the White Sox through Wednesday. He pitched twice in the series in Toronto, posting two scoreless innings before flying home for services on Thursday and Friday.
“I was fine in Toronto,” Robertson said. “Emotions hit me when we got there. He not only was my wife’s dad, he was one of my good friends. We hung out nonstop. He lived with us all offseason. He’s a good man. He was taken too early.”