Braves manager Brian Snitker contests a call by the umpire during the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies for the season opener game at SunTrust Park, Thursday, March 29, 2018.
Photo: ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Photo: ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

Umpire explains fiasco that got Brian Snitker tossed in Braves-Phillies game

Braves manager Brian Snitker was ejected for the second time in three nights on Saturday. But what got him tossed was one of the more unique baseball controversies seen in recent memory.

The Braves won the game 15-2, securing their first series win of 2018, but third-inning drama stole the spotlight.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler was putting in reliever Hoby Milner. Milner, pitching for the third time in three days, wasn’t ready to enter the game. He’d just started warming up when Kapler made the call.

Kapler seemingly stalled on the mound to give Milner more time, to which Snitker objected. The umpires docked Milner three warm-up pitches (as opposed to the standard eight) in an attempt to penalize the Phillies.

Snitker was visibly angry, arguing that Milner shouldn’t have any warm-up pitches and the game should continue. He was thrown out for arguing.

“You never know when you’re going to see something different in this game,” Snitker said. “It was just kind of different for me. That’s the first time I’ve ever been part of anything like that. I didn’t really know how to handle it.

“I think the time had expired and just felt like we should’ve been playing ball. … We do pace of play and everything. We should’ve been playing at that point.”

Crew chief Jerry Layne didn’t give Snitker a reason for allowing Milner five warm-up pitches, but he felt a need to protect the pitcher’s health.

“For whatever reason, the pitcher wasn’t even getting ready,” Layne told a pool reporter after the game. “I’m not placing blame on anybody because I don’t know, he just wasn’t ready. Hadn’t thrown a pitch. (Third base umpire) Greg (Gibson) went out there and deducted three pitches from him. 

“Last thing I want to do is get somebody hurt. It’s already a messed-up situation. He’s getting five (pitches) when he got onto the mound. And Brian thought he shouldn’t have any.”

As the Braves broadcast illustrated, 1:20 passed between Kapler signaling for Milner and Milner taking the mound. He didn’t complete the warm-up until 2:45 after Kapler’s signal.

The umpires are allowed to extend the break if they believe the pitcher is at risk of injury, according to MLB’s new pace of play rules. But, as many would argue, it’s the umpires’ job to enforce the game’s basic rules.

“Brian just got animated,” Layne said. “There’s not a better guy I get along with than Brian. And he started, you know, so I threw him out of the game. He never cursed me. He was just so displeased with what happened. There’s nothing I can do about it but report it, just like you. Between a rock and a hard place. Can’t let somebody get hurt.”

Layne further clarified his explanation to Snitker, and admitted that his complaint was valid, but the player’s health was priority.

“I said ‘Brian, I’m not going to get somebody hurt.’ This would be reported to Major League Baseball. I’m not going to be the judge out here right now, placing a penalty on somebody that’s jeopardizing their health. That’s what I’m thinking. I’m not saying that to Brian, but I’m saying come on, let’s move it along. You’re helping the matter.”

Kapler, who made history Friday as the first manager to use 15 pitchers in his first two games, told Philadelphia media following the game that it was a “miscommunication.”

The Phillies used 21 pitchers across 28 innings in the series. They pitched shortstop Pedro Florimon in relief to finish the series.

Layne didn’t single anyone out, but he acknowledged the Phillies are responsible.

“Whoever’s at fault for not doing their job on the Phillies’ side should have to answer to Major League Baseball,” he said.

Buster Olney of ESPN reported Sunday that MLB will issue a formal warning to the Phillies.

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