By Bob Elliott
It was a long walk that Kevin Pillar took from roughly the shortstop position to the third base dugout at Citi Field on Tuesday.
“It was an out that didn’t have to be made,” said Pillar, who was on first when Jose Reyes singled to right. Head down Pillar headed to third only to find Ryan Goins had been held up by third base coach Tim Leiper. Only one runner per base in National League parks.
The Jays were down 3-0 with none out.
“(Leiper) could have held up a chalk board with the word STOP on it and it wouldn’t have mattered,” Pillar said before Wednesday’s game. “I made up my mind when the ball was hit I was coming to third.
We’ve seen some embarrassing walks over the years.
Jim Wohlford was an extra outfielder with the Montreal Expos in 1983. He was standing on second during a lengthy double-digit pitch at-bat with plenty of foul balls. Finally, the hitter drew a walk and Wohlford strolled to third -- only to find out that there wasn’t a runner on first before the walk.
He made the long walk to the dugout.
Russell Martin remembers catching a called strike three with a runner on third when he was at class-A South Georgia and rolling the ball back to the mound.
“Except it was only the second out of the inning, I made it back to the plate before the guy could score,” Martin said. “Catching for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Philadelphia Phillies had a right-handed hitter up and I threw the ball back to the pitcher. Jayson Werth was on third, timed my throw, took off and scored.”
Jose Reyes can recall standing “maybe three feet off third base” looking down for an instant, hearing the coach Chip Hale yell “BACK!” and the third baseman’s glove pop at Citi Field in 2011. Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto had picked him off.
He made the long walk.
“You have to keep your head up,” Reyes said, “but it can happen to anyone.”
Lefty Brett Cecil remembers his rookie year in 2009 facing the Boston Red Sox at the Rogers Centre. Catcher Rod Barajas flipped the ball and bounced scuffing on the ball. Now, Woodie Fryman would have grabbed the ball and thrown a Kentucky slider. Cecil didn’t want to throw a scuffed ball.
“I always throw out (scuffed balls) out because I never know where the ball will do,” said Cecil, who brought his arms up to his chest to call for time and flipped the ball into the dugout.
Not so fast!
Plate ump Greg Gibson ruled Cecil had not asked for time. The two-base error moved runner Jason Bay from first to third. Cecil made the short walk up atop the mound.
Mike Lowell singled home Bay an later and J.D. Drew followed with a two-run homer as Boston won 8-1.
We recall Gregg Zaun squatting behind the plate on one of those hot humid nights in Baltimore as the Orioles pitcher went into his wind up.
TIME! called the plate ump.
Zaun had forgotten his mask.
Zaun made the quick walk to the dugout.
R.A. Dickey remembers spinning and throwing to first base to pick off a runner at first in 2001 when the Texas Rangers first baseman wasn’t holding on the runner.
“And the worse thing was he had told me he wasn’t holding the runner,” Dickey said. “I just had a brain cramp.”
Broadcaster Buck Martinez remembers reaching back to get a new ball from the plate ump after the ball went to the screen. It was ball four, the runner was on his way to first, the live ball was at the screen and Martinez was still squatting.
Chris Colabello was playing right field behind Mike Pelfrey with the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field in 2013. Down 2-0 in the second, Conor Gillaspie hit a fly ball near the track with a man on base.
“I went over saying ‘I got it, I got it,’ next thing you know the ball is on the ground and I’m asking ‘did I drop that?’ I did. Mike needed that game. We needed that game. I heard from those White Sox fans for six innings.”
The Twins lost 5-4 on the unearned run.
The next night a ball was hit in almost the same place. Colabello made the grab, threw the ball in and turned to the Twins bullpen mouthed “hey this thing actually work.”
In college Colabello was with the Assumption College Greyhounds in Worcester, Mass., playing first against the Merrimack Warriors, who had the bases loaded. The coach called for a back-door pick off where the first baseman slid in behind the runner.
The pitcher air mailed the throw into foul ground and by the time Colabello tracked down the ball the runner from first was rounding third faking a dash to the plate.
“Our second baseman, my best friend, was yelling ‘yes, yes, yes,’ then ‘no, no, no.’ I was caught in between and made a bad throw.”
“Our pitching coach was in the dugout signalling for a fair catch like they do on punt coverage,” said Colabello.
All three runners scored by the time the snow ball fight was over.
“The point is,” said Colabello, making his 61st career start, yet wise beyond his years, “we’re all going to make mistakes, where we all look foolish. There’s a reason that they have the Top 10 Misplays of the Week.
“The thing you have to look at was Kevin’s effort there. The answer is yes.”
And then there was the one about the old ball scribe who went to Wednesday’s starting pitcher Drew Hutchison and began chatting. There are 25 players in the clubhouse -- only the starter is off limits.
The old scribe made the long walk away.