Caleb Smith Ejected as Diamondbacks Top Phillies

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Diamondbacks 4, Phillies 2

PHOENIX, Aug. 18 — Humberto Castellanos pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits and two walks, as the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 4–2, Wednesday night. Castellanos also went 2-for-2 with an RBI in the victory, but the story of the evening happened in the middle of the eighth. After a glove inspection, the umpiring crew ejected left-handed reliever Caleb Smith.

Phillies Take Early Lead, but Diamondbacks Rally

The Phillies pulled ahead in the first. Center fielder Odubel Herrera led off the game with a triple to right and scored two batters later on a passed ball. In the third, the Diamondbacks tied it up off starter Ranger Suarez. Shortstop Nick Ahmed led off with a walk and advanced to second when Ketel Marte, up next, was hit by the pitch. Third baseman Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a 6-4-3 double play, advancing Ahmed to third with two outs. A wild pitch allowed him to score the tying run.

The Diamondbacks took the lead in the fourth. First baseman Christian Walker hit a one-out double. After left fielder Josh Rojas struck out, the Phillies walked second baseman Drew Ellis intentionally. That brought up Castellanos, who singled up the middle to score Walker. The score became 3–1 in the bottom of the fifth. Center fielder Ketel Marte drew a leadoff walk. Cabrera and catcher Carson Kelly followed with consecutive singles; the latter plated Marte.

A two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh made the score 4–1. Right fielder Pavin Smith kept the inning alive with a single and advanced on a wild pitch by reliever Bailey Falter. Walker drove him in with a single. A one-out solo homer in the top of the eighth by Herrera finalized the score.

The Fateful Inspection

Left-hander Caleb Smith relieved Castellanos with one out in the sixth. Upon entering the game, Smith passed the standard glove check from third base umpire Phil Cuzzi. Smith pitched 2 2/3 innings, with his only blemish being the Herrera home run. He left the game in the middle of the eighth. With his spot due up first, pinch-hitter Josh VanMeter waited in the on-deck circle. As is standard procedure, Smith submitted his glove for another substance check.

This one went differently. Cuzzi summoned the rest of the crew into a huddle. Smith, adamant that he had done nothing wrong, yelled in protest. Third base coach Tony Perezchica and first base coach Robby Hammock restrained him as manager Torey Lovullo asked the crew for an explanation. Lovullo said after the game, “There were a couple of suspicious spots, in their opinion. (The umpiring crew is) going to send the glove off to New York to be evaluated and examined to see if anything was happening.”

The Discovery

Crew chief Tom Hallion, who worked first base Wednesday night, explained the crew’s findings to a pool reporter after the game. “(Smith) has a blue leather lining on the inside of his glove, so (what we saw) stood out pretty noticeably. There were two dark — I’ll just call it darker areas of the glove: one on the left side, one on the right side of the heel. We touched those, kind of went around the glove to see if there was any other place that had anything. So there were the two spots that were a foreign substance that had a sticky feel to it. It was on the leather lacing at the heel of the glove also. So that’s why when we all got together and inspected it, we all agreed that it was a foreign substance that was sticky, so he was ejected.”

Smith explained, “It’s dirt. The inside of my glove is baby blue. Wherever my hand goes in is blue. Last time I checked, we played baseball. You get dirty in baseball, (and) you sweat a lot. I touch the dirt a lot. There’s not a foreign substance on there — there’s not pine tar, there’s nothing on there. I don’t use that.”

Smith was “very surprised” at the decision after the second inspection. “(Cuzzi) checked it the first time and everything was fine. Nothing changed between the time he checked it the first time and the last time he checked it and had a problem with it.”

The Result

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Plate umpire Cory Blaser ejected Smith. Lovullo talked to the umpires a bit longer before returning to the dugout. Smith swore that he did nothing wrong. Lovullo added, “I believe my player. I’m gonna stand by my player. He told me that there was nothing malicious happening. I asked to see his hand and his hand was bone dry. He maintained that those little areas, those little hotspots, were a result of the rosin bag. It’s in the league’s hands right now. They’ll get the glove examined and determine exactly what was there and what was causing that stickiness.

“You can see Caleb goes to the ground a lot to get dirt on his hands. He has a pile of dirt on the side of his pant leg as a result of wiping down the dirt off of his leg. So there’s nothing on the baseball, nothing on his hand that’s, in my opinion, resulting in him being able to manipulate baseball.”

Looking Ahead

Castellanos (1–1) earned the victory, his first major league win. Suarez (5–4) took the loss, while Tyler Clippard, who pitched the ninth, notched his fourth save. The Diamondbacks and Phillies will play the third and final game of this series Thursday afternoon. Zack Wheeler (10–7, 2.56 ERA) will start for the Phillies against Diamondbacks lefty Madison Bumgarner (6–7, 4.30 ERA). First pitch will be at 12:40 pm Arizona Time.

The Waiting Game

In the meantime, Smith must wait for the result of the league inspection to learn his fate. Results should arrive either Thursday or Friday. Smith also must break in a new glove, since this is the only one he has. If he is indeed suspended, the Diamondbacks will not be allowed to replace him on the active roster. Smith is certain the league won’t find anything. “If they say that they find something on it, that’s (expletive), because there’s nothing on it. If I was cheating, and I got caught, I would own up to it. But I wasn’t cheating.”

He “definitely wanted to talk to” the umpires but couldn’t. “I was (ticked) off that I got ejected, because again, I did nothing wrong. Like I was saying, if I cheated, I would own up to it. But they’re saying I cheated. And just by doing that, it drags my name through the mud. So even when my glove comes back, and they say that I wasn’t cheating, that’s already out there. People are just gonna go with it. (The umpires) are just dragging my name through the mud.”

Something that might work in Smith’s favor is that his spin rate showed no noticeable increase in any inning Wednesday night. In addition — for whatever it’s worth — Phillies manager Joe Girardi indicated to reporters postgame that the team saw nothing suspicious with Smith’s glove or with the baseball as he was pitching.

Main Photo:
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Players/managers mentioned:

Humberto Castellanos, Caleb Smith, Odubel Herrera, Ranger Suarez, Nick Ahmed, Ketel Marte, Asdrubal Cabrera, Christian Walker, Josh Rojas, Drew Ellis, Carson Kelly, Pavin Smith, Bailey Falter, Tony Perezchica, Robby Hammock, Torey Lovullo, Josh VanMeter, Tyler Clippard, Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, Joe Girardi