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Play at plate draws Sanchez's ire

| Thursday, April 10, 2014, 8:12 p.m.
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Home plate umpire Mark Carlson signals safe after the Cubs' Starlin Castro slid into Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez during the fourth inning Thursday, April 10, 2014, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

CHICAGO — A year ago, it might have been hailed as a textbook play.

Pirates left fielder Starling Marte made a perfect throw. Catcher Tony Sanchez caught it cleanly while on his knees, turned slightly to the left and seemed to make the tag before Starlin Castro slid into home plate.

On Thursday, however, home plate umpire Mark Carlson called Castro safe. And there was nothing the Pirates could do but accept it and move on in a 5-4 win against the Chicago Cubs.

“Infuriating,” Sanchez said. “You put your body on the line for your team, trying to save a run. I don't know what (Carlson's) reasoning was, how he calls him safe. The ball beat him. I held onto the ball, (and) the kid slid into me. It's just ... I don't know, unfathomable.”

Carlson did not invoke MLB's experimental new rule, which is designed to prevent home-plate collisions. Before a catcher has possession of the ball, he is required to give the runner a clear lane to the plate.

“I didn't have (Sanchez) violating any rules for the collision play,” Carlson told a pool reporter. “If he has the ball securely, he would have been able to block the plate. (Castro's) foot touched the plate before the catcher had possession and control of the ball.”

Apparently surprised by the call, Sanchez knelt with his head down for a moment. Wellington Castillo, who had singled to begin the play, alertly went to third base while Sanchez was preoccupied.

Manager Clint Hurdle went out for an explanation, but he did not challenge Carlson's call.

“I chose not to challenge,” said Hurdle, who had a large, laminated list of reviewable plays sitting on his desk after the game.

Hurdle declined to reveal why he did not challenge.

“I had a choice to make, and I chose not to challenge. That's all,” Hurdle said. “If I give you any other answer, we've got 10 more questions.”

Hurdle said he did not watch a replay of the play after the game and added that he does not regret passing on his challenge.

Sanchez, however, did see a replay and indicated he probably violated the collision rule.

“If the umpire would've called (Castro) out, the Cubs would've challenged it, and the (review) would've gone their way,” Sanchez said. “In the heat of the moment, when you've got a guy barreling down on you, you can't stop and think.

“I set up to give them a lane. The throw dictates where I position my body after that. If you run into me, good luck. I'll catch the ball and show it to the umpire, just like I did. But when he called him safe ... man, my blood was boiling.”

Sanchez paused and smiled.

“It's clear I'm not a fan of the new rule,” he said.

Sanchez is not alone. Earlier this week, managers Joe Girardi of the New York Yankees and Bo Porter of the Houston Astros complained to MLB officials about the no-collision rule.

Girardi told the Associated Press the rule has “a vague interpretation of what blocking the plate is” and needs to be clarified in writing.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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