In the eighth inning of the Orioles' 5-3 victory over the Red Sox on Wednesday night, home plate umpire Mike Everitt looked over to Boston's dugout and ejected Adrian Gonzalez, who had just grounded out to lead off the inning. Everitt didn't like what he heard from the dugout, and Boston manager Bobby Valentine was also forced to leave the game shortly after.
But the chirping from the dugout wasn't because of balls and strikes. Rather, it was because of a pitching maneuver O's reliever Pedro Strop had just pulled on Gonzalez.
"My guess was he was kind of mad at the quick pitch," Strop said. "He was arguing with the umpire saying that it was illegal. Something like that. But I haven't got told that it's illegal. So if it's been working I'm going to keep doing it."
Strop didn't come to a complete stop with his arms while pitching from the stretch, but a pitcher doesn't need to come to a stop with no runners on base. (If runners are on base and he doesn't come to a stop, it's a balk.)
There is, however, also a clause in the rule book (8.01b) stating that if "in the umpire's judgment, a pitcher delivers the ball in a deliberate effort to catch the batter off guard, this delivery shall be deemed a quick pitch, for which the penalty is a ball."
But obviously in this case Everitt didn't deem that to be the case.
Undeterred by the arguments, Strop went on to pitch a perfect 8th inning.
"The only thing I was concerned with was keeping my mind on the inning and the game," Strop said. "I didn't want any distractions. I didn't know what happened."
But really, the story about Strop is not this miniature kerfuffle with Gonzalez. It's the fact that the 27-year old hasn't given up a run in his last 17 outings, a span of 16 and 1/3 innings since July 5.
The big name out of the Orioles bullpen this year has been closer Jim Johnson — and rightfully so. Posting 35 saves deserves attention. But Johnson doesn't have some of those opportunities without a dominant eighth-inning setup man, and Strop — he of the 1.20 season ERA — has more than filled that role for the Orioles.