Hinch argues to no avail after umpire awards an out on a ball caught in the dugout

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Cleveland – It’s one of those plays that you don’t think too much about when it happens. But then it’s like a slow burn and afterwards, especially after you look deeper into the ramifications of it in a one-run loss, you realize it was big, potentially pivotal.

It happened at the end of the Tigers’ four-run fourth inning. They’d taken advantage some Cleveland misplays and turned a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 lead. And they still had runners at second and third with two outs and had knocked starter Zach Plesac out of the game.

Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch

Cleveland manager Terry Francona brought in reliever Enyel De Los Santos to face Victor Reyes. Reyes hit a foul ball near the Guardians’ dugout. Catcher Austin Hedges hustled over and made a nice catch, nearly impaling himself on the padded corner of the railing.

Initially it was ruled no catch because Hedges’ had a foot on the first step of the dugout. A fielder can reach over the railing, but he cannot have any part of him actually in the dugout when the catch is made.

The rule book states:

"A catch may be completed in the stands or dugout, but the fielder's first touch must occur with one or both feet on or over the playing surface, and with no foot touching the ground inside the stands or dugout.

"If the fielder falls into the stands or dugout after making the catch, the ball is dead and runners are awarded one base."

So, if it was ruled that Hedges was in the dugout when he caught it, Reyes' at-bat should've continued.

"Which is the way he called it to begin with," Tigers' manager AJ Hinch said, referencing third base umpire James Hoye. "James pointed to the plate and Reyes was putting his (shin guard and batting gloves) back on."  

Francona, though, argued the call and after a brief conference, the umpires overturned it. That bought Hinch out of the Tigers’ dugout to discuss it with crew chief Hoye, Angel Hernandez and home plate umpire Jim Wolf.

“It’s not a reviewable play,” Hinch said. “The initial call was that he went into the dugout. Then they got together and came to the conclusion he didn’t go in the dugout. In the meantime, they showed the replay and he did go into the dugout.”

The steps going into the home and visitor dugouts at Progressive Field are different and come with their own ground rule. The first two steps are technically on the field of play. The first step is considered the lip of the dugout and in play. The second step is considered the first step of the dugout and out of play. 

Clearly, Hedges’ right foot was on the second step, in the dugout, when he made the catch.

The decision of the umpires, ultimately, was that Hedges caught the ball and stepped into the dugout at the same time.

“It’s a judgment call, so it’s not reviewable because it’s on the infield,” Hinch said. “But in the spirit of trying to get it right, I don’t know why it’s not a reviewable play when we are talking about ground rules.”

Hinch tried to get Hernandez to call New York for a clarification.

"I said to him, 'If it's fan interference down by the tarp, you can call New York and see if there was fan interference, right?' And he said yes,'" Hinch said. "I said, 'There's no difference. It's a boundary play.' I can do it on a home run or a ball that comes back to the backstop, it's a boundary play. Same thing

"They said it's in the infield. It's not a boundary play."

Hinch said he would encourage the league to change the rule to include dugout plays in the same reviewable category as boundary plays for next year. In the meantime, the Tigers are left to wonder what Reyes might've done with another swing.

"My choice was either to get ejected for a play that's not reviewable or go back to the dugout," Hinch said. "I told them, 'Just so you know, you guys are getting this wrong.' Clearly it's not a reviewable play, but they got the play wrong."

Hinch was told the decision was made, it's over, no more negotiation, no more conversation.

Load management

The Tigers pulled rookie Beau Brieske from his scheduled start Sunday, meaning the governor is in session. 

Brieske, who hasn't thrown more than 106 innings in a season professionally, is already at 81.2 innings and he figures to have at least 12 more starts this season. So, like they've done in the past with Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal, the Tigers will restrict Brieske's work load in the second half.

Giving him an extended break over the All-Star break is the first application of that plan, with the goal of him staying in the rotation through September. 

"You want your guys to play the whole season, especially when they've earned it," Hinch said. "There's still a long way to go but man, it would be nice to reward them with a season where they make all the starts, given how well he's pitched.

"In a perfect world, that's what we'd like to do."

Whether that means reduced-innings starts or extended days between starts or a combination of both remains to be seen. 

In the meantime, the Tigers will deploy all relievers to get through the game Sunday. Tyler Alexander, unless he's needed to pitch on Saturday, will likely make the start.


Tigers at Guardians, Progressive Field

1:40 p.m.

TV/Radio: Bally Sports Detroit, 97.1.

Scouting report:

LHP Tyler Alexander (2-3, 4.45), Tigers: This isn’t etched in stone. The Tigers will use all relievers to get through this game. Alexander will be first out of the gate unless he is needed on Saturday night.  

RHP Shane Bieber (4-5, 3.24), Guardians: He is coming off an impressive, complete-game win against the White Sox. He allowed a run and three hits and needed only 95 pitches. That came just five days after the Tigers beat him at Comerica, scoring five runs off him in 5.2 innings. His fastball doesn’t sizzle like it once did (90 mph) but his slider-curve-cutter mix can be lethal. He’s getting a 39.7% whiff rate with the slider, 37.7% with the curve ball.

— Chris McCosky