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Getting to the nitty gritty
Tigers' Moehler ejected for having sandpaper on thumb
Posted: Sunday May 02, 1999 11:45 AM
It wasn't long before he and plate umpire Larry Barnett nabbed the Detroit Tigers right-hander, who was ejected for having a small piece sandpaper attached to his left thumb during the seventh inning of Tampa Bay's 4-3 victory Saturday night.
"He was like a kid with his hand in the cookie jar," said Barnett, who inspected Moehler's glove before asking to look at the pitcher's hands. "He knew he was caught."
The ejection, two batters before Randy Winn's game-winning sacrifice fly, came after Moehler allowed singles to Paul Sorrento and Mike DiFelice with one out in the seventh. Reliever Sean Runyan walked Kevin Stocker before Winn snapped a 3-3 tie.
Rothschild went to Barnett at the beginning of the inning to express his concern about Moehler scuffing the ball. But he waited three batters before asking Barnett to check the pitcher.
"I saw the ball moving funny, and a couple of our guys came in and said there's some funny movement. I checked some of the balls they threw out and you could see it," the Tampa Bay manager said.
"Unless I know there's something going on, I don't get into the gamesmanship stuff. I don't really like it. I don't like when it's done to us. So I stay away from that unless I know there's something going on."
Barnett asked to see Moehler's glove. When he didn't find anything, he asked the pitcher to let him see his left thumb.
"I bent it over and it's a piece of sandpaper smaller than a dime," the umpire said.
The inning before, DiFelice -- Tampa Bay's catcher -- told Barnett he thought Moehler was scuffing the ball. The umpire was not convinced at that time.
"I said, 'It could be a bat mark.' That's the first time anyone had said anything all night," Barnett said.
Moehler denied scuffing the ball or having sandpaper on his thumb.
"Every time I get a ball, I rub the ball up," he said. "I take my glove off and rub the ball up, and these three fingers get the dirtiest, and my hand was dirty."
He said he didn't protest the ejection because "that's just my nature."
"I'm not going to sit there and argue with someone to the point that I'm blue in the face. He's a good umpire and he was doing a great job behind the plate."
Bobby Witt (3-0) allowed four hits in seven innings and Tampa Bay improved to 5-0 in games he's pitched. Scott Aldred and Jim Mecir worked the eighth inning for Tampa Bay, and Roberto Hernandez came on in the ninth to earn his 200th career save and eighth this year.
The Devil Rays scored twice in the first and once in the second to take a 3-0 lead against Moehler, who has pitched at least six innings in 16 of his last 17 starts.
The Tigers got one of the runs back on Bobby Higginson's sacrifice fly in the third. They tied it in the fourth when Gabe Kapler singled in Juan Encarnacion and right-fielder Dave Martinez threw wildly past third base to allow Dean Palmer to score, too.
Martinez broke a 1-for-16 slump to drive in Tampa Bay's first run with a triple. Fred McGriff singled him home and the Devil Rays took their three-run lead on Stocker's RBI single in the second.
Notes: The Devil Rays were 12-12 in April, their first month at .500 or better. But manager Larry Rothschild said it's important to keep the surprising start in perspective. "I don't think you're ever pleased ... We're striving for bigger and better things," he said. ... The Devil Rays' 28 homers in the opening month also were a franchise best. Jose Canseco's major league-leading 10 are only six shy of the total the team's designated hitters produced all last season ... Justin Thompson, Detroit's scheduled starting pitcher on Sunday, will be looking for a career-high fourth consecutive win. He's won three straight on four occasions ... Encarnacion singled in the fourth to extend his hitting streak to seven games, then stole his eighth base of the season.
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