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#pounditSunday, May 26, 2024

Cleveland pitcher called for balk that left fans completely mystified

Ben Lively holds up his glove

Cleveland Guardians pitcher Ben Lively was called for a balk on Wednesday that left fans mystified.

Lively started for Cleveland in their 2-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. He was pitching with runners on second and third and two outs in the bottom of the third when he was called for a balk despite not appearing to commit an infraction.

Cleveland manager Stephen Vogt was left shocked by the call, and Lively similarly seemed confused.

Lively didn’t appear to move his feet, hands or any other part of his body. He didn’t appear to do anything unorthodox with his motion to result in a balk call.

But that’s not why he was called for a balk.

Lively was called for a balk due to his violation of a newer rule. Seven years ago, MLB amended its balk rules due to some confusion created by David Price, whose pitching windup was nearly identical to his setup from the stretch. A lack of distinction between the two motions causes confusion for baserunners, which is why MLB began asking pitchers with unclear motions to declare (in situations where a runner is on third base) prior to an at-bat whether they will be pitching from a windup or stretch.

Rule 5.07(a)(2) states:

“With a runner or runners on base, a pitcher will be presumed to be pitching from the Set Position if he stands with his pivot foot in contact with and parallel to the pitcher’s plate, and his other foot in front of the pitcher’s plate, unless he notifies the umpire that he will be pitching from the Windup Position under such circumstances prior to the beginning of an at-bat. A pitcher will be permitted to notify the umpire that he is pitching from the Windup Position within an at-bat only in the event of (i) a substitution by the offensive team; or (ii) immediately upon the advancement of one or more runners (i.e., after one or more base runners advance but before the delivery of the next pitch).”

If you watch the video, you’ll notice that unlike many pitchers who keep both their feet on the pitching rubber from a windup, Lively only maintains contact with his right foot on the rubber. His left foot is in front of his right foot and not in contact with the rubber, which is similar to how a pitcher lines up when they’re going from a stretch.

The balk call allowed the first of just two runs in the game to be scored, making it a huge call. Lively just learned the really hard way why he needs to declare to the umpires when a runner is on third.

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