The Orioles’ four-game series with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park got off to a bizarre start Friday night with the fourth-inning ejection of starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.
Jimenez had yet to allow a hit when he plunked Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval in the upper back on the first pitch of a plate appearance that came with two outs and nobody on base in the fourth. Without warning, home plate umpire Jordan Baker ejected the right-hander from the game, much to the disgust of manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles.
In the second inning, Sandoval had slid hard into second baseman Jonathan Schoop trying to break up a potential double play, but no one from the Orioles had appeared to react with any initial animosity. The former San Francisco Giants third baseman entered the night 11-for-34 with two home runs and five RBIs in his career against Jimenez.
After the 4-3 loss, Showalter labeled the decision to throw Jimenez out of the game “professionally embarrassing” in an interview with MASN and wanted Major League Baseball to be aware of his disenchantment with Baker’s decision.
Baker’s decision to toss the Baltimore hurler was unusual to put it kindly considering neither side had even been issued a warning and Jimenez is notorious for having control problems after walking 5.5 batters per nine innings last season. Even though he hadn’t allowed a hit, the 31-year-old had already walked three hitters on the evening.
With the Orioles facing one of the best lineups in baseball for four games at Fenway this weekend, the forced exit was not an encouraging development in forcing Showalter to go to his bullpen in the fourth inning of the opener. Right-hander Kevin Gausman came on to relieve Jimenez.
It’s clear that Baker thought Jimenez threw at Sandoval intentionally, but issuing a warning to each side would have been the more appropriate action without upsetting the competitive balance of the game — and possibly the series — and potentially creating more bad blood in the first of 19 games between the clubs this season.
Baker is a fourth-year major league umpire and has gained attention for an unusual ritual, making you wonder if Jimenez inadvertently — or intentionally, in the umpire’s mind — stole some of his bubblegum before the game.