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Safe Call Still Has Them Talking

August 14, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

MIAMI — When Hunter Wendelstedt returned to the umpires' room after Tuesday night's game and saw a replay of his controversial home-plate call in the fifth inning, his first response was the same as virtually everyone who saw the play over and over on television: He blew the call.

But upon further review, Wendelstedt wasn't so sure. He ruled Paul Lo Duca safe because he thought Florida catcher Ivan Rodriguez bobbled the ball before applying a second tag, and the only televised replay -- from a center-field camera angle -- showed Rodriguez had possession of the ball as he made his initial tag.

"I watched the play in here and thought, 'Darn it, I missed the play,' and then I went to the bathroom," Wendelstedt said before Wednesday's game. "Then one of the guys from the crew said, 'Come here, look at this.' It was a replay from another angle, from the third-base side, and it looked like [Rodriguez] did bobble the ball.

"I'm not going to say I'm 100% right, but I thought he bobbled it, and then I saw the second tag. Most of the time, when a catcher makes a tag, he holds the ball up. Paul did get his foot in before the second tag, and I called safe. I went with what I thought was right. Bring it to a court of law, and it's inconclusive."

After sliding into Rodriguez, Lo Duca lunged for the plate with his leg, and Rodriguez applied a second tag. "I think that fooled the ump a bit," Lo Duca said. "He was in the right position. He thought [Rodriguez] juggled the ball."

But Rodriguez, who was ejected after slamming his face mask to the ground, also saw the second replay -- it came from an in-house camera -- and was still convinced Wendelstedt missed the call.

"It was an out -- he never even touched the plate," Rodriguez said. "It was very clear in the replays. I guess he thought I dropped the ball. I had the ball all the time in my glove, plus [Lo Duca] didn't touch home plate. We got the win. That's more important."


After using five relievers in Tuesday's 13-inning loss, the Dodgers moved to fortify their pitching staff Wednesday by recalling Japanese right-hander Masao Kida from triple-A Las Vegas and optioning outfielder Jason Romano back to triple A.

Kida, who was 2-3 with a 4.48 earned-run average in 17 starts for Las Vegas, missed the first month of the season while recovering from a March 1 automobile accident, in which he suffered a broken toe and a strained lower back.

Teppei Shiokawa, the Dodgers' Japanese interpreter, was a passenger in Kida's car and suffered serious injuries that required two surgeries and sent him to the intensive-care unit of an Orlando, Fla., hospital.

Wednesday, the two were reunited in the Dodgers' Pro Player Stadium clubhouse.

"We made a promise after we came out of the hospital to meet each other in the major leagues," Shiokawa said. "When I got the call [late Tuesday night] that he was coming, it was amazing. It feels like it's finally over, that the accident is behind us, and we can get back to normal."


Dodger left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii, out since July 30 because of a sprained ligament in his left knee, threw 59 pitches, many of them with maximum effort, in the bullpen Wednesday but will need at least one more bullpen workout before returning to the rotation.


First baseman Fred McGriff, out since July 4 because of groin and knee injuries, had two hits, including a double, in three at-bats for the rookie-league Gulf Coast Dodgers in the last game of a three-game rehabilitation assignment Wednesday. McGriff is expected to be activated for today's game.

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