WASHINGTON -- Questions to be answered Sunday morning: How was Charlie Culberson? What did Fernando Rodney think? Why did he remain in the game? What exactly transpired between Davey Martinez and the umpires Saturday night?
First, Culberson. The Braves announced he has multiple facial fractures. He left the hospital Saturday night and slept at the hotel. Sunday, he flew back to Atlanta to be further evaluated.
“I talked to Charlie just a little bit ago,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He sounded good. One of the trainers will accompany him back to Atlanta and let the eye doctor and the specialist see him. I didn’t see him. I talked to him. The guys that did see him said he looked better than they thought he would this morning. He sounded good, for what he’d been through. It’s all very encouraging.”
All things considered, this is one of the better scenarios after a 91-mph fastball hit Culberson on the upper right side of his face in the seventh inning Saturday. The game froze, Rodney’s face went blank and a hush dropped over the crowd. Rodney was not in the clubhouse when reporters entered Saturday night following an extended delay. Sunday morning, a still-concerned Rodney explained how he felt in the moment and afterward.
“I really don't know what's going on,” Rodney said. “I only saw that I hit him in the face, it was a scary moment for me, the player, for them. The reaction ... that's part of the game sometimes. I don't want to hit nobody, no matter where, but I don't want to hit no player."
What were you thinking when it appeared you wanted to come to the plate?
“I wanted to say sorry,” Rodney said. “I want to say sorry because I don't want that to happen to nobody. Sometimes ... a lot of things happen in this game."
Did you want to still pitch afterward?
"Really after that I say [in my head] I don't want to,” Rodney said. “I feel sorry that that happen. I feel like I tried to do something, I'm supposed to do, but that's baseball. You have to continue to keep working... You try to recover your mind and keep going and doing your thing."
Which leads to the next question. Why was Rodney still in the game after the incident? Multiple opportunities existed to remove him. After he struck out Adam Duvall, who replaced Culberson, was a chance. Two batters later -- following back-to-back doubles, one of them a bloop by Ozzie Albies -- was another. Instead, Rodney remained in the game while it unwound.
Martinez said Sunday neither he nor pitching coach Paul Menhart spoke with Rodney after the incident. Instead, they motioned to him to see if he was all right.
“Kind of made little gestures to him back and forth,” Martinez said. “And he was saying he wanted to stay in. I talked to him [Sunday] again, he said he never wants to hit anybody. He said, I know as much as that moment you feel bad, but he said I had to pitch. I know that. Trying to win a game, I had to pitch, he said [Sunday] is another day and if I need him, he’s ready to pitch.”
Part of the fallout from the night includes criticism of Martinez for asking the umpires to check if the pitch should be called a strike. Home plate umpire and crew chief Tim Timmons told a pool reporter Saturday night:
“The very first concern was clearly for (Culberson). In the process of asking him to stay on the ground and not move and the trainer getting out there and them starting to look at him. After we got into that a little bit, Dave Martinez was saying something to me. I couldn’t hear him. So, I walked over and I said, ‘What’s going on?’ He said, ‘We’d like you to check on whether or not he offered at the pitch.’ I said, ‘Okay, I understand. I’ll do that.’ At which point, I went to first base umpire Bill Welke and asked him if he had him offer at the pitch. He said, ‘Yes, he did.’ So, that’s the situation.”
Martinez disputed that characterization of the situation Sunday.
“I really don't want to talk about that,” Martinez said. “I had a conversation with [Timmons]. The way it sounded was not the way...let's just say that. So, um. But, as a manager, it's kind of my job -- we're in a 1-1 game. That's all I'm going to say. It stinks. It wasn't the way it was portrayed to be.”
Martinez was asked what’s the line between trying to win the game and handling the situation with sensitivity.
“I'm going to be honest with you, the last thing I wanted to do was be a jackass,” Martinez said. “I'll tell you right now. All right? But, they get it. They understood. It's part of the game. We're in a 1-1 game. I would think that everybody would understand that. It's unfortunate. It stunk. As we all recall, we had a player [Trea Turner] break his finger in two places because he got hit and he had to go back and we had to get somebody else to hit for him.”
Snitker said he understood, from a competitive perspective, why Martinez would talk to the umpires.
“I’m sure they don’t like doing it,” Snitker said. “I guess over the course of a game, that’s one of the things you do ask about. Hard as it might be, you’re still within your right to do that.”
Though, Snitker continued to disagree with the umpire’s conclusion that Culberson swung at the pitch.
Martinez called Snitker on Sunday morning to express his, and Rodney’s, sympathies. Baseball resumed at 1:35 p.m. Rodney went down to the bullpen. Martinez took his spot on the dugout steps. Culberson went home to heal.
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