Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley will be available to play tonight in Game 3 of the National League Division Series despite a two-game suspension for a slide into second Saturday that MLB ruled illegal.
In Game 2 on Saturday night, Utley slid into New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada as Tejada was attempting to turn a double play. With one out on the board in the bottom of the seventh, Utley slid to break up the throw and keep the inning alive.
But the play wasn't the only thing he broke; the impact also fractured Tejada's lower leg.
Major League Baseball announced Sunday that Utley was suspended for two games for an illegal slide. Utley's agent immediately countered with plans to appeal the punishment. A hearing was supposed to take place today to settle the matter before the start of Monday night's Game 3, but according to multiple reports, the appeal won't be heard today.
While the appeal is pending, Utley is eligible to play.
Running at full speed at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, Utley dropped to slide feet-first. Missing the base completely, he collided squarely with Tejada, who went flying into the air and landed hard, the ball still clenched in his hand. He stayed on the ground until he was carted off the field with this leg in a splint.
Utley's slide quickly became a point of controversy: Some called it a hard-nosed baseball play, while others condemned it as dirty.
Here's the video:
Though the umpire ruled the slide legal during the game, MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre later announced the suspension. Torre's statement in full:
"I recognize that there has been much commentary and many questions regarding the unfortunate play in last night's game in which Ruben Tejada was injured. As I said after the game, the determination of whether a baserunner has intentionally interfered with a player attempting to turn a double play is left to the judgment of the Umpire on the field, and that judgment call is not subject to review. I should add that determining where to draw the line between an illegal slide and a legitimate hard play is an extremely difficult call for our Umpires.
"However, after thoroughly reviewing the play from all conceivable angles, I have concluded that Mr. Utley's action warrants discipline. While I sincerely believe that Mr. Utley had no intention of injuring Ruben Tejada, and was attempting to help his Club in a critical situation, I believe his slide was in violation of Official Baseball Rule 5.09 (a)(13), which is designed to protect fielders from precisely this type of rolling block that occurs away from the base.
"We have been in discussions with the Players Association throughout the year regarding potential rule changes to better protect middle infielders, and we intend to continue those discussions this offseason."
Utley's agent, Joel Wolfe, called the suspension "outrageous," in a statement according to the Los Angeles Times:
"A two-game suspension for a legal baseball play is outrageous and completely unacceptable. Chase did what all players are taught to do in this situation – break up the double play. We routinely see plays at second base similar to this one that have not resulted in suspensions.
"Chase feels terrible about Ruben Tejada's injury and everyone who knows him knows that he would never intentionally hurt anybody. We will be appealing this suspension immediately."
Game 3 will be tonight at the Mets' Citi Field at 8:37 p.m. ET on TBS. The best-of-five series is tied at one game apiece.