Bo Porter

Bo Porter wasn’t trying to pull a fast one. He actually didn’t know the rules. And neither did the umps.

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Still kinda amazed at that weird pitching change fiasco in the Astros-Angels game last night in which Bo Porter pulled his reliever for another before the first one ever faced a batter.

When I first read about it I figured that Porter was trying to pull a fast one and call in a different pitcher without anyone really noticing. Because while, yes, there are some rules in the book that are obscure, the one about pitchers having to face a batter before being lifted barring injury is pretty well known. But Porter’s post-game explanation of it shows that he either (a) actually did not know that; or (b) was going to great lengths to explain away his gamesmanship:

Q: Can you walk us through the pitching change in the seventh inning?

A: “My understanding of the rule, and I was fortunate enough last year to sit in with [Nationals manager] Davey [Johnson] when they changed the rule of a pitcher having to face a batter. But at the same time, if you have to pinch-hit for that batter, you now have the right to bring in another pitcher. Technically, Wesley came in to pitch the batter that was scheduled to hit [Shuck] but he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit. Which, from my understanding of the rule, you can bring in another pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”

Well, nope. Not at all. There is no “pinch hitter exception,” for the simple reason that if there was managers would delay a game for an hour constantly changing pitchers and hitters to get the platoon advantage. Tony La Russa probably lobbied hard for such an exception back in the day, but it’s not the rule.

So, OK, a major league manager is simply ignorant of a rule that governs his primary in-game job. That’s bad. But what’s worse is the umpires, no? How on Earth did they not know this relatively basic rule? Porter again:

Once I made sure that he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit, then I started towards the mound. The home plate umpire, he kind of stopped me. He said, ‘Whoa, Bo,’ and then Scioscia started yelling he has to face a hitter. I just calmly explained to him my interpretation of the rule is ‘Yes he has to face hitter ,as long as it’s the hitter that’s scheduled to hit.’ The hitter that was scheduled to hit had now been pinch-hit for, which now gives me the right to bring a pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”

So the ump bought it even though it was his first impulse to not allow the switch. Is Porter a Jedi? Is he able to talk anyone into anything? Is home plate umpire Adrian Johnson and his crew — consisting of him, Fieldin Culbreth, Brian O’Nora and Bill Welke — that unsure of the rules that a calm, seemingly rational yet totally erroneous explanation of why such is not the rule enough to rule the day?  In the next game these guys ump, should a batter simply call time out after strike three and say “from my understanding of the rule, the batter is allowed four strikes, so I am going to continue batting”?

In some ways this is way worse than Angel Hernandez’s bad call on the home run the other night. This is simple umpire ignorance which was pointed out to them at the moment it occurred and which they ignored. They literally could have pulled out a rule book at that moment to consult it but didn’t.

Major League Baseball has to address this with more than a cursory statement from Joe Torre.

Report: Cardinals are scouting Cuban outfielder Luis Robert

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Baseballs sit in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
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According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.

There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.

Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.

Cubs extend Pedro Strop through 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.

Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.

The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.

Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.