No umps when Orioles and Pirates play unneeded bottom of 9th

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — There was no umpire behind the plate calling balls and strikes, or even one of those so-called robo umps that could become part of the game in the future, when the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates kept playing Tuesday.

The umpires were done with their day’s work after Baltimore’s Josh Lester grounded out to end the top of the ninth inning with the Orioles trailing 7-4, officially ending the spring training contest.

But after the umps left the field, the teams kept going and played the bottom of the ninth following a quick discussion between Pirates manager Derek Shelton and Baltimore skipper Brandon Hyde had a quick discussion and decided to keep going.

The Orioles wanted to get some work on the mound for right-hander Ofreidy Gómez. Teams occasionally agree to shorten or lengthen spring training games depending on needs.

With the umpires gone, the balls and strikes were called by the catcher, just like is done in so many backyard games. Maverick Handley, a non-roster invitee who has never played about the Double-A level, was behind the plate for the Orioles.

Under Major League Baseball protocol, umpires in spring training aren’t obligated to proceed to the bottom of the ninth after a game has been played to a finish — the possibility of a needless injury, perhaps on a foul tip striking the plate ump, is among the concerns.

It has happened that umpires have permitted play to continue and kept working, but they aren’t required to allow it. Such situations are subject to discussion and agreement among all sides.