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Sunday's MLB: Indians' Zach Plesac reportedly sent home after protocol misstep

Tom Withers
Associated Press

Zach Plesac understood the importance of players behaving in order for baseball to have its season amid a global pandemic.

He broke the rules anyway.

The Indians sent Plesac back to Cleveland on Sunday in a rental car after the young right-hander violated team rules and Major League Baseball’s coronavirus protocols, a club official told the Associated Press.

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Zach Plesac throws against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning Saturday in Chicago.

The official said the 25-year-old Plesac went out with friends in Chicago on Saturday night following his win against the White Sox. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the team got Plesac a car so he wouldn’t be on a plane with teammates and staff in the event he contracted the virus.

It is not known if Plesac has been tested since breaking the team’s code of conduct. He will be isolated from the team and can not take part in team activities until he twice tests negative for COVID-19.

The Athletic first reported Plesac was sent home.

Indians team president Chris Antonetti is expected to address Plesac’s situation following the team’s series finale in Chicago on Sunday night.

Major League Baseball has been emphasizing the need for players to be more careful and follow its protocols in the wake of coronavirus outbreaks with the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals. The episode with Plesac, the nephew of former big league reliever Dan Plesac, is the most high-profile evidence of baseball’s increasing concern about its guidelines.

Last month, Plesac, who has become a reliable starter for the Indians, spoke of the importance of players abiding to the “code of conduct” that every team was required to submit to MLB in hopes of completing the 60-game regular season.

“Definitely any time you can maintain social distancing is going to be what we have to focus on,” Plesac said July 3. “There are common sense situations, where you see things are packed, or going out to the bars and drinking – doing stuff like that isn’t stuff that’s really important to us right now and shouldn’t be important to us right now.

“We’re given this privilege to be able to come back and play and given this short window to even play. It’s a good time now just to really buckle down and focus on what’s important and work toward something greater at the end of the season and for these couple months, lock in and focus on what we have set for us at the end of the year.”

The Indians have had few issues since baseball’s restart and their decision to send Plesac home exemplifies how strict they’ve adhered to the MLB guidelines. A few weeks back, slugging outfielder Franmil Reyes was kept away from the team after the Indians spotted him on social media at a July 4 weekend party not wearing a mask.

Plesac is from Crown Point, Indiana, which is about 45 miles from Chicago. In his start Saturday, he didn’t allow a run and limited the White Sox to five hits in six innings to improve to 1-1.

A's, Astros tangle

The Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros apparently were tired of playing nice.

So following two quiet games at the Coliseum, true feelings seemed to come out and tempers flared Sunday, months after Houston’s sign-stealing scandal was brought to light by Oakland pitcher Mike Fiers.

Things got so angry the benches cleared – and the stands emptied, too, during Oakland’s 7-2 victory over the AL West rival Astros.

The Athletics’ ninth straight win was far overshadowed by what erupted in the seventh inning. The skirmish came less than two weeks after the Astros tangled with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team they beat in the 2017 World Series.

Oakland’s Ramon Laureano got hit by a pitch — for the third time in the three-game series — this one by Humberto Castellanos with one out in the seventh, and pointed at the rookie right-hander.

Oakland Athletics' Ramon Laureano (22) charges the Houston Astros' dugout after being hit by a pitch thrown by Humberto Castellanos during the seventh inning Sunday in Oakland, Calif.

Laureano then began exchanging words with animated Astros hitting coach Álex Cintrón, left first base, threw down his batting helmet and began charging toward him in the first base dugout.

Astros catcher Dustin Garneau left the bench to tackle Laureano before the A’s outfielder reached Cintrón, and a wild scene ensued.

“I was just trying to stop the situation before punches were really thrown and stuff got out of hand,” Garneau said. “That’s really what my whole goal was for that incident.”

Players rushed out of both dugouts to join the fray. Players who were sitting in the seats, observing COVID-19 social-distancing protocols, also rushed onto the field. Several Astros streamed out from their tunnel area.

Laureano was ejected by plate ump Ted Barrett, and the umpiring crew could easily be heard yelling at the players to “get back to the dugout!” through a ballpark with no fans.

“Ramon’s not going over there for no reason,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said, adding of Cintrón: “I think the league will know who that is and that person will get suspended. Hopefully, that’s the case. Nowadays without fans in the stands and mikes everywhere, my guess is they know who it is.”

Oakland batters were hit five times during the series, no Houston hitters were plunked.

A’s catcher Austin Allen was also ejected and Astros manager Dusty Baker was tossed a half-inning earlier for arguing balls and strikes. Houston lost its fifth in a row overall.

Oakland realized Laureano likely faces discipline.

“Look, we understand and you do the best you can with these things,” Melvin said. “Obviously we don’t want to get into a brawl like that and we understand the protocol. Unfortunately, it happened.”

Baker said he didn’t see what happened because, having been ejected, he couldn’t get the game feed on his clubhouse TV.

When asked whether Cintrón had crossed the line with his behavior, Baker reserved judgment.

“Who chirped first? Did Alex say something to him first or did Laureano say something?” Baker asked. “I don’t know what happened. I’ve chirped at players before myself. Guys always say, well, is it inappropriate for a coach to chirp at a guy, but are you supposed to just sit there and take it?”

“It’s in the heat in the moment, we’re all men out there, with high pride and anxiety and everything else. These things happen when you’re on the baseball field,” he said.

Ex-Astros player and former Tiger Fiers didn’t pitch this series. He went public to The Athletic in November about Houston’s detailed sign-stealing scam.

Pirates-Cardinals postponed

The entire three-game series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis that was set to begin Monday night at Busch Stadium has been postponed while the Cardinals deal with a COVID-19 outbreak.

There have now been 27 games postponed by Major League Baseball because of coronavirus concerns. The Cardinals have not played since July 30 and have had 13 games scrapped.

Miami and Philadelphia each had seven games postponed earlier and have returned to the field since the disruptions.

MLB said Sunday night that the league and the Cardinals “believe it is prudent to conduct additional testing while players and staff are quarantined before the team returns to play.”

The Cardinals’ weekend series at home against the Chicago Cubs was called off Friday after two more St. Louis players and a staff member tested positive for the coronavirus. Eight of their players in total have tested positive, including star catcher Yadier Molina.