Spring training means baseball is back — apparently with or without umpires.
The Orioles–Pirates game on Tuesday “officially” ended after the top of the ninth in a 7-4 win for the home Pirates. But the two teams opted to play another half-inning to get some of their minor-league players some extra game experience.
Such a thing is common in spring training, as it serves as a way to get younger players, especially pitchers, some valuable live reps in front of MLB coaching staffs. What is not common, however, is to do so without umpires, which is what happened Tuesday.
Baltimore’s coaches appeared to signal that they wanted to play a bottom of the ninth, with Pittsburgh agreeing, but by that point, the Pirates broadcast was showing the umpiring crew well on its way out of the Pirates’ spring training field in Brandenton, Fla.
“They have dinner reservations,” Pirates broadcaster Joe Block quipped.
After a brief discussion between Orioles manager Brandon Hyde and Pirates manager Derek Shelton, the two opted to play on without umpires, allowing Orioles catcher Maverick Handley to call balls and strikes.
Handley may have been a bit biased with some of his calls, though catchers are usually tasked with calling balls and strikes in MLB intrasquad or simulated-game scenarios.
The umpire-less inning even had an extra treat for critics of MLB’s new pitch clock. With no umpires to enforce it, the pitch clock was turned off, just like the old days.
“There are no rules,” Block joked as a Pirates batter hit a pop fly. “You don’t even have to catch that. Just say he’s out.”
Still, the odd scene and Block’s commentary provided a funny moment for the fans who decided to stick around for a meaningless half-inning of a spring training game.
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