Monday, July 26, 2021

Canada Briefly Removes Team From Field in Olympics Softball Substitution Controversy

Team Canada briefly left the field during its Olympic Softball game vs Japan when umpires initially sought to prohibit a pitching substitution before ultimately allowing pitcher Danielle Lawrie to re-enter the game in the 5th inning after a rules check. Originally listed as Canada's starting pitcher, Lawrie had been removed in the 1st inning before throwing a pitch.

The WBSC Softball Rules Book allows for re-entry of players and states that all starting players may be substituted for and re-enter the lineup once (Rule 3.2.3e). Teams may designate a Designated Player (DP), which functions similarly to a Designated Hitter (DH), as well as designated a Flex Player, which is the player for whom the DP bats—similar to a pitcher in most American League games.

Because Lawrie never entered the game as a batter, we'll skip the batting order considerations, but when Canada sought to return Lawrie to the game in the 5th, it was an attempted use of starting player re-entry rule 3.2.3e.

Softball does not require starting pitchers actually throw a pitch or face a batter, meaning her 1st inning replacement by DP Sara Groenewegen was legal.

Rule 4.7, entitled Return of Pitcher, states, "there is no limit to the number of times a player may return to the pitching position as long as the player has not left the line-up or been declared an illegal pitcher by an Umpire."

In order words, because Lawrie left the lineup in the 1st inning, she was prohibited from returning an unlimited number of times to the mound, but nonetheless she should have been allowed to return pursuant to WBSC 3.2.3e, which, after a rules check, is precisely what happened.


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