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Umpire on Brian Fuentes' ninth-inning pitch: 'Could have been a strike'

Rick Reed, who made the call in Wednesday's loss to the Red Sox, puts part of the blame on Angels catcher Mike Napoli and rebukes Angels coaches for their actions.

September 18, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

BOSTON — Umpire Rick Reed acknowledged Thursday that his ball-four call on a ninth-inning pitch by Angels closer Brian Fuentes to Nick Green on Wednesday night "very well could have been a strike." He also admonished the Angels for their actions after the team's 9-8 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

With two out and Green at a full count, a strike call would have given the Angels the game. Instead, the walk forced in the tying run.

Reed said that on that final pitch to Green, Mike Napoli's actions led him to call it a ball after the Angels catcher tried to frame the knee-high pitch. Reed said he also had an earlier call on his mind -- a call he confesses he might have missed.

"I saw the strike zone," Reed said of the pitch to Green, referring to the telestrator box used on television replays. "That said it was a strike -- it was a pitch I thought was borderline. The catcher did a nice job of bringing it up, and that was a telling blow. If a catcher moves his glove, it's to improve the pitch.

"I called a [strike] earlier in the game that I thought was low, and I said, 'I'm not going to let that happen again.' I wish they were all waist-high. They'd be a lot easier to judge."

The Angels were still fuming after Red Sox shortstop Alex Gonzalez's walk-off single ended the game, and they vented their frustrations toward the umpires, who, in Fenway Park, walk through the visiting dugout and tunnel to get to their dressing room.

"Their deportment when we left the field left a lot to be desired," said Reed, a 28-year veteran. "I was disappointed in the coaches. They're the guys who usually stop friction during the game and afterward. They were an issue, and I'm not pleased in the way they said things or their presentation."

Asked if it was the behavior of the coaches that left the worst taste in his mouth, Reed said, "Yes. Their behavior was unprofessional and unbecoming of a Major League Baseball team."

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia strongly disagreed with Reed's charge that the Angels were unprofessional.

"That's absolutely wrong," Scioscia said after Thursday night's 4-3 win over the Red Sox. "We had an emotional team. We respected their space. We gave them a buffer zone to go up [the tunnel] and all of us were upset, but there was nothing threatening.

"It was along the lines of, 'You've got to be kidding me!' A lot of it was not directed at them. Guys were venting. There was some profanity, but in an emotional game like that, there's going to be some venting."

Reed did not name the coaches, but did say Scioscia could have handled the situation better.

"Mike made an attempt to quiet the coaches down," Reed said. "But he also made a comment that incited the situation."

Said Scioscia: "I made a quiet comment to Rick Reed, and that's between me and him."

Reed filed a report to the commissioner's office after the game, and several Angels coaches and Scioscia are expected to receive fines and, possibly, suspensions.

Scioscia also spoke with MLB officials and pointed a finger at third base umpire Mark Wegner, who, according to Scioscia, came back to confront an Angels coach.

"If anything," Scioscia said, "there is a little lesson of professionalism on Mark Wegner's part that needs to be discussed."

After the game, Scioscia and Fuentes were forceful in their criticisms of Reed and first base umpire Jeff Kellogg, who ruled that Green had checked his swing on an earlier two-strike pitch.

"What was the count at the end?" Scioscia fumed. "Three-and-four to Green?"

Fuentes said the umpires might have been swayed by the Fenway crowd, that there is a history of the Red Sox getting a hometown advantage.

"It's frustrating, especially here and in other places where they seem a little timid to make a call," Fuentes said.

"It just seems like that's the way it is here time and time again. . . . It's either a mistake or they're scared. It's one of the two."

Said Reed of the comments: "We read them, and we heard them. Do we wish to comment on them? I don't think so."

On Thursda,y Fuentes said he "didn't regret" his comments and didn't think the criticism would cause future close calls to go against the Angels.

"I know some people might worry about that, but it's not like I cursed him up and down and called him and his mom names," Fuentes said. "I just expressed an opinion that he made the wrong call."

Fuentes did admit that it was "unprofessional" of him to stomp his glove and fist to the ground after the call.

"It was an emotional game, and that was an emotional situation," Fuentes said. "Everybody has his breaking point. [Reed] didn't egg me on. He could have told me to shut up and get back on the mound, but he stayed professional."

Fuentes did not attempt to speak to Reed on Thursday.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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