There was no umpire behind the plate calling balls and strikes, or even one of those so-called robo umps that could become part of the game in the future, when the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates kept playing Tuesday.
Umpires left the field after Baltimore’s Josh Lester grounded out to end the top of the ninth inning with the Orioles trailing 7-4, officially ending the spring training contest.
But the teams went ahead and played the bottom of the ninth inning after Pirates manager Derek Shelton and Baltimore skipper Brandon Hyde had a quick discussion.
The Orioles wanted to get some work on the mound for right-hander Ofreidy Gómez. Teams occasionally agree to shorten or lengthen spring training games depending on needs.
Hyde said the umpiring crew was not on board with the plan and left the field.
“A little backfield action,” Hyde told the Baltimore Sun after the game. “We were told by the league that we could clear it by the umpires and pitch the bottom half of the ninth inning, and I guess [crew chief] Chad Fairchild felt that we couldn’t.”
With the umpires gone, the balls and strikes were called by the catcher, just like is done in so many backyard games. Maverick Handley, a non-roster invitee who has never played about the Double-A level, was behind the plate for the Orioles.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.