Thursday, July 28, 2022

Ask the UEFL - Batted Ball Deflects Off Pitcher's Head

This quick Ask the UEFL came to us as a fairly simple question: "Is this an infield fly?" With one out and two on (R1, R2) in Cincinnati, Reds batter Donovan Solano hit a batted ball directly off Marlins pitcher Daniel Castano's head, the batted ball bouncing high in the air before settling into the glove of Reds third baseman Joey Wendle for the inning's second out. 

Stipulating that the pitcher's health is of greater importance than the play itself—especially when a concussion-inducing hit to the head is concerned—we were nonetheless asked about the rules implications of such an odd sequence as the ball remained live after the moment of injury.

Succinctly, this is not an infield fly—even though the ball careened high into the air and was caught at an angle similar to that of a fly ball. The definition of the term states, in part, "An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out." Because the batted ball can best be described as a line drive, it is therefore ineligible for the infield fly rule. The third baseman could have allowed the ball to fall untouched and all runners would have been forced to advance (this is not an intentional drop, either).

Finally, we note that if R1 or R2 wished to try and advance to their next base, they would not have to wait until the third baseman ultimately caught the ball, but instead could have legally left their bases the moment the ball first touched the pitcher. Although Official Baseball Rule 5.09(c)(1) states: "Any runner shall be called out on appeal when—after a fly ball is caught, they fail to retouch their original base before they or their base is tagged," the definition of catch prevails because it directly addresses the concept of touch-without-catch: "Runners may leave their bases the instant the first fielder touches the ball."

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Solano's liner hits Castano, incapacitating the pitcher as play continues (CIN/CCS)


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