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Great Moments in knowing your right from your left: Mariners’ skipper signals for the wrong reliever

Aug 2, 2013, 9:06 AM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Getty Images

Missed this from the Red Sox-Mariners game last night.  It seems that during that epic ninth inning meltdown, Mariners acting manager Robby Thompson messed up when he was making a pitching change.  He wanted to bring in right-handed reliever Yoervis Medina to take over for Tom Wilhelmsen, but he accidentally signaled with his left arm.

That meant that lefty Oliver Perez, who was warming alongside Medina, had to come in and face switch-hitter Shane Victorino. After him came righty Dustin Pedroia. You’d normally want Medina in that spot over Perez, but since lefty David Ortiz was up after Pedroia, Thompson decided to let Ollie power through to get the matchup against Ortiz.

He got Ortiz. But not before giving up a two-run single to Victorino and an RBI single to Pedroia, cutting the M’s lead to 7-6. Oops. Medina came in after that and promptly gave up what was left of that lead, so maybe it didn’t matter in the end. This was a pretty total bullpen failure as opposed to the failure of just one man.

Still: I was not aware that the arm the manager raised when calling for a reliever meant anything official. I figured it was just for purposes of letting the bullpen folks know who he wanted, not the umpires and the official scorer and God and everyone.

Guess you learn something new every day.

  1. proudlycanadian - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:10 AM

    The key term is “acting manager”. He is not used to being playing the lead role.

  2. silversun60 - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    He should have done the trusty “which one makes an L” to be sure which was left.

    Works for me all the time.

    • dan1111 - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:30 AM

      That only works if you remember which way an L goes.

      • jcmeyer10 - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:31 AM

        Oh the Mariners know which way an L goes, they see it all the time! 😀

    • gerryb323 - Aug 2, 2013 at 10:30 AM

      Can’t both hands make an “L”?

      • gerryb323 - Aug 2, 2013 at 11:16 AM

        Supination, people. Try it.

      • tigersfandan - Aug 2, 2013 at 11:29 AM

        Yeah, but which one is easier?

  3. js20011041 - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    I had no idea that this was a rule either. This is idiotic. Who gives a shit which arm he puts up? Let him bring in who he wants. Does the same thing happen if the manager misspeaks when he making a double switch? If he goes to the umpire and says “I’m bringing in Smith, I mean Johnson” does he have to bring in Smith at that point?

    • paperlions - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:37 AM

      What if two righties are warming up? How do the umpires know who he meant to signal for?

      If this is really a rule on the books, it is a dumb rule.

    • anxovies - Aug 2, 2013 at 11:36 AM

      If there’s a lefthander warming up and he raises his right hand does that mean the game gets called because there is no pitcher?

    • jcmeyer10 - Aug 2, 2013 at 2:03 PM

      What’s great is Farrell said he would not have argues if Medina came in the game. Being on the winning side is swell and all but it is a bit silly.

  4. hbegley6672 - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    There’s a new leader in the clubhouse for dumbest rule ever

  5. beefytrout - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:45 AM

    Lots of baseball knowledge fail in here. First off… why would a team warm up two right-handed relievers at the same time? Secondly, why would the bullpen need the arm signal? If that’s all the gesture was accomplishing, couldn’t they simply use the dugout phone… you know, the way they contact the bullpen to tell them who needs to start getting ready?

    It’s how you let the other team know what’s going on so they can make a change, if needed.

    • paperlions - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:50 AM

      Teams warm up two righties all the time, do you ever pay attention? Late and close game situations are dynamic and many bullpen guys are “specialists” within some context (strike outs, ground balls, great against RHB, etc.).

      There is a lot of fail in your fail.

      The other team knows which change you made because they see the guy trot in from the pen and his entrance into the game is announced on the PA, has nothing to do with “arm signals”.

      • beefytrout - Aug 2, 2013 at 10:26 AM

        Yeah… because there has always been PA announcing in baseball.


      • heyblueyoustink - Aug 2, 2013 at 11:24 AM

        Just like there have always been bullpen phones. People forget how old the game is. Some things just carry over from days where technology wasn’t there.

      • paperlions - Aug 2, 2013 at 11:43 AM

        ….and there have NOT always been bullpens

        ….and there have NOT always been outfield fences

        ….and there have NOT always been overhand pitches

        …..and there have NOT always been non-fastballs (which were strictly banned at one point).

        …..and there have NOT always been walks

        So what?

        How things used to be has no bearing on the relevance of rules in 2013

      • moogro - Aug 2, 2013 at 6:20 PM

        It’s OK, beefy, just own it and move on.

    • natslady - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:51 AM

      Gee, I dunno. Two righties–one is the “closer” the other one is the “mop-up” guy? Happens all the time.

      Still an umpire fail. Who CARES, who even KNOWS what the signal is for bringing in guys???? Send Morse code.

      • natslady - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:58 AM

        OK, so if the manager signals for a squeeze, and the guy misses the signal because there was a cross-up and he hits away for a home run–do they take that back?????????

      • natslady - Aug 2, 2013 at 10:01 AM

        Or, better still, the mgr signals for a squeeze, the infielders come in all prepared-like and the guy hits one through for a single. Wait! You can’t DO that, you signaled for a bunt and he didn’t bunt. Waaaaaaaaaaah!!!

      • paperlions - Aug 2, 2013 at 10:02 AM

        I guess it depends on if the umpire knows the teams signals or not.

      • natslady - Aug 2, 2013 at 10:05 AM

        @paper, maybe this “rule” is to help managers so the Tony LaRussa situation doesn’t happen again (“What the h*** are YOU doing here???”). So kind of the umps.

      • km9000 - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:25 PM

        So hyper.

  6. redux23 - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:49 AM

    Don mattingly is vigorously taking notes

  7. heyblueyoustink - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    “Still: I was not aware that the arm the manager raised when calling for a reliever meant anything official.”

    I can’t believe you didn’t know this was a rule. I picked up on it as a kid. Call for the righty, call for the lefty, I would imagine originated in the pre-natal days of basball where maybe there weren’t phone lines to the bullpen. Baseball is a pretty old game afterall. So you would signal to the bullpen. I’m sure you’ve heard that one before.

    • js20011041 - Aug 2, 2013 at 10:09 AM

      I’m sure Craig knew that managers were signaling left arm for the lefty and right arm for the righty. He just didn’t know that it was a written rule (although I’d be curious to see if it actually is in the rule book) that could be enforceable.

  8. bambam431987 - Aug 2, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    Looking at this picture it is his right arm. It only looks like his left because we are looking at him. His right is our left while looking straight at him.

    So I believe he is right & the bullpen coach screwed up.

    Unless the rule is to use the arm that looks like you are signaling the arm or the pitcher. Like left arm for right would look like the right one on the bullpen.

    • Bryz - Aug 2, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      If you watch the GIF on Deadspin, he raised his left arm first, then quickly lowered it and raised his right. He then started pointing at his right arm as if to show that’s what he meant, but the damage had been done.

  9. Detroit Michael - Aug 2, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    Baloney. This is not a rule. The official rules are easily located on the Internet at Looking for all the references to the word “substitute” confirms that this is not a rule. Obviously once Oliver Perez is in the game, he has to pitch to at least one batter, so if the manager (or in this case acting manager) doesn’t catch his mistake promptly enough, then he’s stuck with Perez.

    From the game story, it sounds plate umpire Gary Darling mistakenly believes this to be the rule.

    • tjwilliams - Aug 2, 2013 at 10:19 AM

      It’s iffy. The rule in question is this:

      “The manager shall immediately notify the umpire-in-chief of any substitution and shall state to the umpire-in-chief the substitute’s place in the batting order.

      The umpire-in-chief, after having been notified, shall immediately announce, or
      cause to be announced, each substitution.

      If no announcement of a substitution is made, the substitute shall be considered as having entered the game when—

      (1) If a pitcher, he takes his place on the pitcher’s plate;”

      So if raising the arm is considered “notif[ication],” then this was the right call. If the lefty had just run in without being signaled, they could have sent him back as long as he didn’t take the mound.

      I’m not familiar enough with the vagaries of manager/umpire discussions to know if the arm is generally considered to be notification of a pitching change, but, if it is, then Darling made the right call.

      • moogro - Aug 2, 2013 at 6:25 PM

        You got it. He could have switched pitchers all day as long as they don’t step on the mound. That’s the rule.

  10. delsj - Aug 2, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    Thompson could have stopped Perez at any point before he reached the mound and sent him back to the bullpen for the right guy. Didn’t see it (don’t care), but I would guess he just tapped his arm and then started talking to the guys on the mound. and never looked to see who was coming in until Perez was on the mound. I imagine his next words were: “What the heck are you doing out here?”

    MLB Rule 3.08:
    If no announcement of a substitution is made, the substitute shall be considered as having entered the game when —
    (1) If a pitcher, he takes his place on the pitcher’s plate;

    • geoknows - Aug 2, 2013 at 10:26 AM

      He did not start talking to guys on the mound before reversing himself. In fact, he hadn’t reached the mound at all. He pointed to his left arm, immediately realized his mistake, then pointed very animatedly at his right arm. Medina never got anywhere near the mound.

      It was totally stupid. Under that interpretation of the rule, putting a pinch hitter in the on deck circle, then changing your mind before he comes up and replacing him with a different pinch hitter also should not be allowed. Just dumb. If I’m the Mariners, I definitely protest the game. Too late now.

    • icanspeel - Aug 2, 2013 at 10:26 AM

      Does bring up a good point, Did Perez ever make it to the mound? I thought I saw him start to go out the gate, but get called back well before he got anywhere near the mound.

  11. joecsports - Aug 2, 2013 at 10:20 AM

    The Mariners should have protested the game, if Darling wouldn’t let them bring in the right hander. At least MLB should clarify the rule, if it somehow exists.

  12. fomeols - Aug 2, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    Last night was very hard to endure. King Felix went home and hit the wall…frequently.

  13. joenash72 - Aug 2, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    Robby Thompson is filling-in for Eric Wedge because Wedge had a mild stroke. Watching stuff like this is gonna cause Wedge to have a major stroke 😦

  14. hushbrother - Aug 2, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    Hypothetical question: What if a manager with only one arm has to signal to the bullpen? Does he have to use his legs instead?

    • drewzducks - Aug 2, 2013 at 2:09 PM

      Hush, my thoughts exactly, is MLB saying Jim Abbott could never be a manager ? Or that he could only summon lefties from the bullpen ?

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