After spending six seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cody Bellinger made his return to Dodger Stadium for the first time as a visiting player. The center fielder was non-tendered during the offseason and he went on to sign a one-year contract with the Chicago Cubs.
Prior to the the first game of the series, the Dodgers played a video tribute for Bellinger on DodgerVision as he stood down the first base line while tipping his cap to fans, who gave him a loud ovation.
In his first at-bat on Friday night, Bellinger was again greeted by more cheers as he stood outside the batter’s box to let the fans salute him.
That led to the 27-year-old not being alert to the pitcher with at least eight seconds remaining on the pitch timer, and he was granted an automatic strike before his plate appearance even began.
Many considered it an embarrassing moment for the league, but it’s also one that could have been avoided had the Cubs or Dodgers followed the proper protocols, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times:
But according to a major league official who is familiar with the Bellinger situation but not authorized to speak publicly about it, neither the Cubs nor Dodgers made such a request before Friday night’s game, so neither crew chief Alan Porter nor Wolf was aware of a possible stoppage in play for Bellinger.
The pitch clock, which was added this season, states a pitcher must begin his motion before the expiration of the 15-second timer, or 20 seconds with at least one runner on base. Additionally, a hitter must be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with at least eight seconds remaining.
Whether a batter is alert to the pitcher or not comes down to a judgment call by the umpire, but the rules also allow for extra time to be granted by the home plate umpire.
Despite the Dodgers and Cubs not alerting MLB to their plans, home plate umpire Jim Wolf should have been aware of the situation as a veteran on the crew. The Dodgers did not plan any in-game stoppages as their video was played before the game started.
It would have been easy for Wolf, or crew chief Alan Porter, to recognize what was going on and that the moment could not have been planned out. MLB seems to be placing the blame on the teams, but the umpires are arguably more at fault for not recognizing the situation and adjusting accordingly.
Bellinger had fond memories in return to Dodger Stadium
After making his debut in 2017, Bellinger went on to win National League Rookie of the Year, and he was later named to two All-Star Games, in addition to taking home the MVP Award in 2019, a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger during his career with the Dodgers.
Bellinger’s time in L.A. also included a World Series title in 2020. Although his final two seasons were ones to forget, Bellinger looked back on his Dodgers career in a positive light.
“A lot of good memories, man,” he said of returning to Chavez Ravine. “Except I came in from the other side. But it’s good to be back. It’s a beautiful day and you know, a lot, a lot of good memories here.
“Excited to go see the guys after this and just kind of mess around. I’ve talked to a few of them, but I haven’t seen them in a while.”
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