When Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon met with reporters after Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins, he had already changed out of his uniform and into shorts and a sweatshirt.
That’s because McClendon was ejected from the game in the top of the fourth inning after a brief argument with home plate umpire Sean Barber, whose version of the strike zone did not align with McClendon’s.
McClendon said he was upset about an 0-2 pitch thrown by starter Roenis Elias to Twins center fielder Shane Robinson in the third inning. It was a curveball that, McClendon believed, appeared to catch the outside part of the plate, in the upper-left portion of the strike zone.
But Barber called the pitch a ball, Robinson eventually singled, and Joe Mauer drove him in from first base with an RBI double.
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McClendon believed the call cost the Mariners a run. So, with Twins catcher Chris Herrmann batting in the top of the fourth, McClendon called timeout, started jawing at Barber on his way to visit Elias on the mound — the manager told Elias to “keep the ball down, (and) eventually get some strikes” — and McClendon continued his mostly one-sided conversation with Barber as he made his way back to the dugout, finger-pointing all the way.
Before he got there, though, Barber threw him out of the game, which led McClendon back to home plate, where he gestured and chastised Barber some more before heading back to the dugout. He watched the rest of the game inside the clubhouse.
Asked if he relayed his concerns about the strike zone to Barber during their exchange, McClendon replied: “Something to that effect, yeah.”
Elias, making his first start in the majors this season, said he appreciated the support.
“It felt good that he went out there to fight for it,” Elias said through an interpreter. “Obviously those are close pitches that didn’t go for strikes, and he saw what I saw, and it was nice of him to go out there.”
Elias also pitched in an early season game last year against Oakland that was umpired by Barber, whose inconsistent strike zone was also a topic of conversation that night.
McClendon’s ejection was his first this season, the 25th of his career as a manager and the 30th of his career overall.
McClendon said right-handed reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a hyperextended right elbow, is “10 to 12 days” away from a possible return to the club.
Wilhelmsen played catch Friday and “felt great,” McClendon said.
The plan is for him to extend to 90 feet for his next catch session during Seattle’s upcoming road trip, “and hopefully get on the mound and start throwing downward,” McClendon said.
Rookie reliever Carson Smith has pitched 17 innings in his major league career without allowing a run, which is two-thirds of an inning shy of tying the Mariners’ club record for most consecutive scoreless innings to start a career (Mark Lowe set the record in 2006). Smith already has the club record for most consecutive appearances to begin a career without allowing a run. … Seth Smith’s fourth-inning home run was his first as a Mariner, as well as his first since Aug. 6, 2014, when he was playing for the San Diego Padres.
The Mariners begin a 10-game road trip Monday in Texas, where they begin a three-game series against the Rangers at 5:05 p.m. (PDT) and will be shown on Root Sports. Their trip through the American League West continues with a four-game series in Houston, followed by three games in Anaheim against the Angels.
Right-hander Taijuan Walker (0-2, 10.66 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for the Mariners, with right-hander Yovani Gallardo (2-2, 3.92) scheduled to start for the Rangers.
Christian Caple: 253-597-8437