Monday, April 15, 2024

Nestor Cortes Fake Pitch - Legal or Illegal?

Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes executed an unusual delivery against Cleveland, pantomiming a fake pitch during his windup to Guardians batter Andrés Giménez. HP Umpire Mark Carlson and crew no-called the peculiar sequence, but with such a bizarre pitch, was there a rules violation to enforce?

This isn't Cortes' first unorthodox delivery, as in early 2023, Cortes reacted to HP Umpire Reed Basner's quick pitch (automatic ball) call by drawing out his windup and throwing a "slow pitch" instead. We discussed its legality, finding that although the quick pitch comes with its own penalty (automatic ball with the bases empty or a balk with runners on base), a "slow" pitch does not.

This time around, Cortes added a fake pitch motion prior to his actual throw, leading to similar questions as to its legality. Official Baseball Rule 5.07(a)(1) governing Windup Position states, "Any natural movement associated with his delivery of the ball to the batter commits him to the pitch without interruption or alteration. He shall not raise either foot from the ground, except that in his actual delivery of the ball to the batter, he may take one step backward, and one step forward with his free foot."

If an umpire deems Cortes failed to heed the "without interruption or alteration" portion of this rule, the penalty wouldn't be the same as if Cortes were to have pitched from off the rubber (illegal pitch), thrown a quick return pitch (illegal pitch), or taken an additional step during delivery (treated as an illegal pitch). The penalty for all these would be an automatic ball added to the count; had there been runners on base, it would be treated as a balk instead.

But simple violation of the "without interruption or alteration" part of the rule alone, while grounds for a potential balk call had there been runners on base (e.g., under OBR 6.02(a)(1)), with the bases empty, there is no penalty as there would be for a bona fide illegal pitch.

Accordingly, the only remedy is a "don't do that" instruction to the pitcher, which does not carry with it a ball added to the count or other real gameplay penalty.


Post a Comment