Curto, Tacoma Rainiers

A Glitch In The System: Robot Umpire Causes Unusual Play

The Tacoma Rainiers road trip continues, with a three-game series at Salt Lake City starting at 5:35 Pacific time tonight. Tacoma went 3-3 in Reno, winning the first three games and losing the next three.

This series is the first three-game series of the season. While the schedule is predominantly made up of six-game series, there are a few three-gamers scattered about. We have one coming up at home, with Round Rock arriving on Friday for three games.

Manager Tim Federowicz returns to the helm of the team today. He’s been in Covid protocol, but has now tested clean and is ready to resume his duties. We thank Dan Wilson for filling in – he seemed to enjoy it, and he wound up going 3-3 in six games.

Now, for some fun and games: we had our first robot umpire snafu on Saturday night in Reno.

It’s the bottom of the eighth inning, and Reno leads 6-2 and has the bases loaded with two outs, Buddy Kennedy at the plate. The count is 3-0. Fernando Abad is on the mound, and his pitch just barely clips the bottom outside corner of the strike zone. At least, that’s what the robot umpire said.

The batter did not wait for the human umpire to relay the call – Kennedy immediately started jogging to first base, assuming it was ball four. The runner at third, veteran catcher Juan Centeno, saw Kennedy going to first so he started jogging toward the plate, thinking he had been forced home. Instead, because the pitch was called a strike, the count was now 3-1 and Centeno was a live runner. Abad threw the ball back to catcher Andrew Knapp who tagged him out.

Check out the video from Reno’s MiLB.TV feed:


OK, who or what is at fault here?

This would not happen with a live umpire, because the strike call would be instantaneous. The slight delay in the relay from the computer to the home plate umpire definitely impacted the play.

But, as one member of the Rainiers told me, Kennedy “hung Centeno out to dry” by going to first base before the call was made. As you can see in the video, it’s not like the pitch was clearly a ball and the computer screwed up. That pitch is close, and it must have clipped the very edge of the computer’s zone.

And then there is Centeno, who has been playing since 2007, and has played in the majors for parts of seven seasons – but he, like everyone else, is adjusting to the robot umpire. It’s easy to say now, but he should have stayed close to third base until he knew for sure that it was ball four.

This is the first time the computer system has impacted a Rainiers game in an unnatural fashion. It is constantly being tweaked and improved – we are guinea pigs here in the PCL – but on the whole, I think it has been an improvement so far, and has a lot of promise.


YESTERDAY: The league was off yesterday. On Sunday the Rainiers dropped a heartbreaker in Reno, 6-5, and settled for a split of the six-game series. After getting held to one run by Tommy Henry for 7.2 innings, Tacoma scored four runs on four straight two-out hits in the eighth and took a 5-4 lead. Brian O’Keefe connected for the go-ahead two-run HR. But Reno rallied in the bottom of the ninth, with Dominic Canzone‘s two-run walk-off single the game-winning hit. Justin Upton had his first big game for Tacoma, lifting an opposite-field home run in the sixth before driving an RBI double in the eighth.

TODAY: Tacoma Rainiers (19-34) at Salt Lake Bees (29-25), 5:35 PT.

OPPONENT AFFILIATION: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.


SEASON SERIES: Salt Lake leads, 8-4.

PITCHERS: LHP Justus Sheffield (1-4, 6.26) at LHP Kenny Rosenberg (1-1, 1.73)

Sheffield was named PCL Pitcher of the Week for the six shutout innings he tossed in Reno.

ROSTER MOVES: On Sunday the Mariners released pitchers Ian McKinney and Asher Wojciechowski from the Tacoma roster. This cut the number of relievers on the squad down to 12. That doesn’t include rehabilitating Mariners relievers Ken Giles and Erik Swanson, who may pitch today.

HOT HITTERSBrian O’Keefe has reached base with a hit or a walk in 21 of the 22 games he has played in this season… Jarred Kelenic has an 11-game hitting streak, going 18-for-48… Andrew Knapp has a five-game hitting streak… Forrest Wall has hit safely in five of his last six games.

OPPONENT NEWS: Salt Lake won on Sunday against El Paso, but lost the home series 4-2. Prior to that the Bees had won or split their previous five series… in something I never thought I’d live to see, high-elevation Salt Lake has the best pitching stats in the PCL. The Bees lead the league in team ERA (4.25) by nearly a third of a run over runner-up Oklahoma City (4.55)… David MacKinnon has reached base via hit or walk in 20 straight games, and he has homered in back-to-back contests… former Rainiers outfielder Dillon Thomas has reached base in ten straight games.

BROADCAST: All games will be broadcast free on a live audio stream which is available right here.

Unfortunately, there is no traditional terrestrial radio station carrying the games at this time.

PCL SCOREBOARD: Follow all league games in real-time with links to broadcasts and Gameday screens right here.


  • The News Tribune’s weekly Rainiers report leads off with Justus Sheffield, who has pitched his way back onto the Mariners starting rotation depth chart.
  • The fightin’ M’s held off Houston last night in an entertaining game.
  • New reliever Ryan Borucki is happy to be a Mariner.
  • Two Mariners appear on this week’s edition of Baseball America’s Prospect Hot Sheet. No surprise that Reno’s Tommy Henry is on there, too.
  • In the PCL, Corey Julks of Sugar Land was one of the hottest hitters in the league in May.

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