Russell Martin got ejected from a ballgame Monday night either for being too funny, or not funny enough.
Either way, it appears that home plate umpire Paul Schrieber did not appreciate the Yankee catcher’s sense of humor when Martin said he asked him. “Did you stretch before the game tonight?’’
That seemingly innocent question got Martin tossed with two out in the fifth inning of the Yankees’ 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
“What, we can’t talk anymore?,’’ a bemused Martin asked in the Yankees clubhouse afterward. “It’s a game, man, we’re supposed to be having fun. I was just trying to get him to laugh.’’
Martin’s remark to Schreiber followed back-to-back walks by Phil Hughes and was apparently interpreted by the umpire as a criticism of his strike zone. As is their habit, the umpires did not speak with the media after the game, and Joe Girardi refused to recount the conversation, so Martin’s account of what went down in front of home plate is all we have to go on.
According to Martin, who had not been ejected this year, his question was an attempt at humor that apparently escaped Schreiber, who removed his mask, walked in front of Martin and asked him to repeat himself.
“I said it again,’’ Martin said. “And I said, ‘I feel like you’re kind of tight tonight.’’’
Asked by reporters if he meant tight in his attitude or his strike zone, Martin replied, “Both.’’
But according to Martin, Schreiber didn’t ask for an explanation or a clarification. He just tossed him from the game.
“I didn’t say he sucked. I didn’t say he was the worst umpire in the league. I didn’t cuss at him. I didn’t say any of that stuff,’’ Martin said. “And I got thrown out. That’s tough to do.’’
The exchange followed a trip to the mound during which Martin attempted to calm down Hughes, making only his second relief appearance of the season and first since August 7, when he took the loss in a 3-2, 10-inning defeat by the Boston Red Sox.
On Sunday, Girardi announced that Hughes, who won 18 games as a starter in 2010 but has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness this season, would work out of the bullpen in the playoffs.
“I was just trying to make my pitches,’’ Hughes said. “I made two or three pitches to (B.J.) Upton, two to (Evan) Longoria, and two to (Ben) Zobrist that I thought should have been strikes and I was kinda losing my cool out there so Russell came out and talked to me for a couple of minutes. Then he went back and I guess he said something.’’
Hughes wasn’t aware of what Martin had said, and Martin, who acknowledged he was unhappy with Schreiber’s strike zone, was at a loss to explain why a comment meant in jest landed him in the showers four innings early.
“The other times I’ve gotten thrown out, I’ve probably deserved it, but not this time,’’ he said. “If he would have thought about it a couple of seconds more he probably wouldn’t have thrown me out because when they do that, they’re just bringing attention onto themselves. Now he’s the one who’s going to have to write the report. I can’t wait to see what he’s going to write.’’