Laird, Gonzalez ejected for arguing third-strike call
Both said frustration with umpire Hernandez began on Simmons' whiff in first
PHILADELPHIA -- Braves backup catcher Gerald Laird was looking forward to the opportunity to face Phillies lefty Cliff Lee on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park. But after looking at three pitches thrown from Lee, Laird unleashed his fury on home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez and earned his first ejection of the season.
Laird erupted when he was called out after looking at three consecutive fastballs to open the third inning. The third, which appeared to be high, led to the most animated argument a Braves player has had with an umpire this year.
"Obviously my day was shorter than I would have liked, but for the most part, I wanted to get my point across," Laird said. "It's just a shame. You go look at the tapes and you look at it. I know those guys work their tail off. I have all the respect in the world for them. When you're missing one or two, I can deal with that when their close. It's a tough job. But when you're getting to six, seven and eight pitches a game and acting like you don't care, it's frustrating."
After the third strike, Laird got in Hernandez's face and offered a few choice words. As he walked toward the dugout, he continued to voice his displeasure and in the process, he was tossed. This led the veteran catcher to storm back to the plate, where he got back in Hernandez's face.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was not able to get on the field soon enough to save Laird. But he remained on the field long enough to offer his take on the situation and earn his second ejection of the season.
"I felt like I could have easily been in a 2-1 count," Laird said. "The way it started and then with the high strike, he reached all the way across the plate up and away and he gave him a strike. I felt like I just had enough and I said some things I shouldn't have said."
Laird and Gonzalez both said their frustration began building when Andrelton Simmons was called out on strikes to begin the game. After catching what was called strike three, Phillies catcher Humberto Quintero threw the ball back to Lee, indicating that he thought the pitch missed the strike zone.
Quintero also appeared ready to throw the ball back to Lee on the third strike against Laird. If Quintero had felt it was a strike, he would have thrown the ball to third baseman Michael Young.
"It's just uncalled for," Laird said. "When the catcher throws it back to the pitcher on strike three, obviously he's saying one thing and it's not even close. As catchers we know what strikes are and we throw it back to the pitcher if it's not a strike. He threw it back to the pitcher and he rung him up. When you look at that, it shows you what kind of night he had."
Laird said he has had some previous problems with Hernandez, who has been no stranger to controversy throughout his career.
"This is the big leagues and a lot of people watch us," Laird said. "You just want it to be done right and be accountable with your part. I prepare every day as if I'm going to play every day, which I don't. But those days I do play, I come in here and get ready to play. I feel like I want everybody else to go out there and do their part. <[> "I've had some things with him in the past and sometimes with him, it's just hard to explain."
Instead of enjoying a night of rest, Brian McCann assumed the catching duties in the third. This was Laird's first appearance since he played the entirety of a June 26 loss to the Royals.
"The person I felt worst for was B-Mac on his day off," Laird said. "But you can only take so much."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.