HOUSTON -- Astros manger Bo Porter issued a public apology Friday afternoon for making an illegal pitching change in Thursday's loss to the Angels, a move that led to the two-game suspension and fine of crew chief Fieldin Culbreth and fines for the rest of his crew.
Porter pulled pitcher Wesley Wright from the game in the seventh inning Thursday before he had a chance to face a batter, which is a misapplication of official baseball rule 3.05(b). The rule states a pitcher must face at least one hitter before he can come out of the game, unless he's injured.
The other members of Culbreth's crew -- Brian O'Nora, Bill Welke and Adrian Johnson -- also received fines from Major League Baseball stemming from the same sequence of events.
Porter, the first-year manager, was adamant following the game that he was allowed to make a pitching change because the Angels had brought in a pinch-hitter after Wright was announced as being in the game, but he was informed later that night Wright should have faced the batter.
"I would say the first thing is me, personally, I want to apologize to their whole crew for putting them in that position," Porter said. "And it's unfortunate for the game of baseball, but at the same time I had a chance to speak to [Culbreth] last night after the fact, and he called over and I stand corrected of my thought process and interpretation of what it is I believed the rule to be. I want to give them my apology, and I wish the whole thing never happened."
Porter said Culbreth called over to his office after the umpire had spoken to his superiors and told him the pitching change hadn't been handled properly. Porter said he apologized to Culbreth at that time, and then took time prior to Friday's game to apologize again through reporters.
"When I went out there last night, my interpretation of it and my thought process of what it is I believed the rule to be was the fact that the scheduled hitter had to be faced by that pitcher," Porter said. "After the game, I found out that was not the case and there are some repercussions. As I sit here today, it's more that I feel sorry for the crew chief and crew for having to wear what it is that happened last night."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia had been playing the game under protest, which was dropped when his team scored three runs in the eighth and won, 6-5.
The controversy came in the seventh inning. With runners at first and third and two outs, Porter brought in Wright, a lefty, to face left-handed hitter J.B. Shuck. Porter then subbed in the right-handed Hector Ambriz before Wright threw a pitch after he saw right-hander Luis Jimenez on deck to pinch-hit.
Scioscia argued at length with the umpires before notifying them he was playing the game under protest.
Porter said following the game: "If you have to pinch-hit for that batter, you now have the right to bring in another pitcher. Technically, Wesley came in to pitch to the batter that was scheduled to hit [Shuck], but he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit. Which, from my understanding of the rule, you can bring in another pitcher to face the pinch-hitter."
Porter said he stopped to talk to the umpires to make sure Jimenez was officially in the game.
"Once I made sure that he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit, then I started towards the mound," he said Thursday. "The home-plate umpire [Johnson], he kind of stopped me. He said, 'Whoa, Bo,' and then Scioscia started yelling, 'He has to face a hitter.'
"I just calmly explained to him my interpretation of the rule is, 'Yes he has to face the hitter, as long as it's the hitter that's scheduled to hit.' The hitter that was scheduled to hit had now been pinch-hit for, which now gives me the right to bring a pitcher to face the pinch-hitter."
Wright could have been pulled when a pinch-hitter entered the game had he pitched the previous inning and was beginning a fresh inning, but he reiterated it was an honest mistake.
"But a mistake we don't want to have," Porter said. "That's why to me, I give my deepest apology to their entire crew. Mike Scioscia was right. I feel bad I put them in position where they felt that, 'Maybe Bo is right,' and then a decision was made that ended up not being the right decision."
Said Wright: "I just think it's unfortunate. It's a terrible situation for everybody involved. It's kind of embarrassing for the game of baseball. For him to get suspended in that type of deal, I think it's unfortunate."
Wright was "pretty sure" he had to face at least one batter.
"When they told me I was out of the game, I was, 'Maybe I don't understand the rule,'" he said. "It was a little bit of a weird situation."