The season’s first lesson on sensitivity awareness was given yesterday in Cleveland, when benches emptied after Shin-Soo Choo was forced to duck under a head-high fastball from Toronto reliever Luis Perez in the 15th inning.
While no hitter in baseball would react well to an inside pitch above his shoulders, Choo was particularly sensitive. He missed six weeks last season after having his thumb broken by a pitch. He had been drilled earlier in Wednesday’s game by Ricky Romero. So when he was forced to the dirt by Perez in the 15th, he responded by jumping up and taking angry steps toward the mound, spurring the benches to empty. (Watch it here.)
Which is where intent comes into the equation.
Perez’s pitch arrived after warnings had already been issued by plate ump Tim Welke in the fourth, after Cleveland’s Justin Masterson came inside twice against Kelly Johnson, apparent retaliation for Choo’s HBP an inning earlier.
Perez was Toronto’s seventh pitcher of the day. That left one guy in the pen—closer Sergio Santos—to go the rest of the way, were Perez ejected, in a game that looked as if it might never end. There were two possibilities for Perez’s motivation—he’s a baseball imbecile, with no shred of insight into the appropriate time to respond to something; or the pitch simply got away from him.
The smart money’s on the latter; Welke’s certainly was. Despite the earlier warnings, Perez was not ejected, and it’s not difficult to see why.
Even Choo came around to that viewpoint, saying after the game in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “I was hit by a pitch last year and broke my thumb. Maybe that’s why I’m sensitive right now. But I know it’s part of the game. Pitchers have to go inside. I understand it.”
And so we move on. Teams play again Saturday; we’ll see how Toronto reacts once the timing is right.