Female Ump Flawless in Exhibition Game

Friday, March 30th 2007, 8:16 am
By: News On 6

Kenny Rogers and Eric Gagne are headed to the disabled list, while Ria Cortesio is ticketed for the minors again. If she can make it back to the big leagues, though, that would be something.

Cortesio became the first female umpire to work a major league exhibition game since Pam Postema in 1989 when she was on the bases Thursday for the Chicago Cubs' 7-4 victory over an Arizona Diamondbacks split squad in Mesa, Ariz.

Cortesio hustled all over the infield and made her calls with an emphatic fist pump. Always in the right position, she did what every umpire hopes to do during a ballgame: She blended in.

Her performance before a HoHoKam Park record crowd of 12,917 was pretty much like the sunny 64-degree day. It was flawless.

``It was pretty uneventful. I didn't have much,'' Cortesio said.

At least not on the field. Her phone started ringing early Thursday morning as the hype surrounding her assignment began to build.

``When I found out I had this game, my plan was to sneak in, work the game and sneak out and hope no one noticed,'' she said. ``That didn't happen.''

Working with major league umpire Mike Winters on the bases while another minor league ump, Jason Kiser, handled the plate, Cortesio was at first base for the first two innings before she switched across the diamond to third and then back again a couple of times. The moving around from side to side is standard for spring training games.

With a dark blue hat, light blue short-sleeved shirt and gray slacks, Cortesio looked very much like the other two umps _ just a bit thinner.

Cortesio knew several players in the game because they were also in the minor leagues where she worked.

``I got a lot of, 'Hey Ria, where are you going to be this year?' That's the question. As of right now, I'm going back to the Southern League, but that's subject to change at any minute. As soon as a spot opens up at Triple-A, it's mine,'' she said.

Cortesio is the only female umpire in professional baseball. At 30, she is starting her ninth year overall and fifth in Double-A.

Once she makes it to Triple-A, she'll be evaluated by major league umpire supervisors.

If she's judged good enough, she would be invited to the Fall League, then to a full schedule of major league spring training games and finally to a spot as a fill-in in the majors.

No female umpire has ever worked a regular-season game in the majors. Cortesio obviously hopes to be the first.

``Absolute best-case scenario, we're looking at 2009 to get a couple of games,'' she said.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella, known for his run-ins with umpires over the years, saluted Cortesio's pursuit.

``I think it's good. I really do,'' Piniella said. ``I think there is a place for women in the umpiring ranks _ they're certainly as qualified as anybody else. I'm sure if they get the same opportunities, the same schooling that their male counterparts do, they'll do a really nice job.''

At Lakeland, Fla., Rogers was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a tired arm, making Chad Durbin the Detroit Tigers' fifth starter.

The move, retroactive to Sunday, sends Rogers to the DL for the first time since 2001. Manager Jim Leyland said the 42-year-old left-hander will miss only one start.

``No. 1, you're concerned about Kenny Rogers and make sure he's OK. The other part will take care of itself. We'll march on and hopefully this won't be a very long period of time,'' Leyland said before Detroit's 3-1 win over Houston.

Texas will put Gagne on the DL to start the season, giving the closer more time to come back from elbow and back operations.

The Rangers said Gagne hasn't had any health setbacks. The 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner has pitched only 15 1-3 innings over the past two seasons.

``I feel pretty good, but I think this is going to help the team,'' Gagne said in Surprise, Ariz., after throwing 15 pitches in a minor league game.

This is the third straight season since his dominating run as the Los Angeles Dodgers' closer that Gagne will be on the disabled list before pitching. Akinori Otsuka, who converted 32 of 36 save chances last season, will handle the closing duties until Gagne returns.

The DL move will be retroactive to Wednesday, meaning Gagne could rejoin the Rangers on April 13 for the start of a series in Seattle. He will pitch for Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma until then.

At Bradenton, Fla., NL batting champion Freddy Sanchez went 2-for-8 in a minor league intrasquad game, the first time the Pittsburgh Pirates' infielder ran the bases and played in the field since hurting his knee March 6.

``I just tried to get out there and push it,'' Sanchez said.

He thought he did that successfully _ increasing the chances he might be able to play in the Pirates' season-opening series that starts Monday in Houston.

At Jupiter, Fla., Jim Edmonds finally looked ready for opening day, just in time for the St. Louis Cardinals to begin making their way north.

Edmonds got his first hit and RBI of spring training in the Grapefruit League finale for the World Series champions, who tied the Florida Marlins 4-4. It was only the fourth game for Edmonds, who missed much of the exhibition schedule while recovering from shoulder and toe surgeries.

But afterward, manager Tony La Russa said he's still being cautious with the eight-time Gold Glove winner.

``He's getting closer,'' La Russa said. ``I think you live with doubts. When you walk around with no doubts, that's when you get sucker-punched. We'll watch him closely and we'll try to do the right thing.''

A few days ago, Edmonds sounded doubtful about being ready for the season opener Sunday night against the New York Mets because of the injuries that had kept him out of action since the World Series celebration.

Now, it seems as though he could be in the lineup.

``Things have been responding well,'' said Edmonds, who says the toe still pains him and acknowledges some extra shoulder stiffness from time to time. ``There's some things that are getting stronger in there.''

In other news, Los Angeles Angels reliever Scot Shields agreed to a $14.6 million, three-year contract extension through 2010, and Oakland first baseman Dan Johnson will begin the season on the DL with a hip injury.

Cory Lidle's wife and son will throw out the ceremonial first pitch Monday on opening day at Yankee Stadium. The 34-year-old pitcher was killed in a plane crash Oct. 11 in New York after finishing last season with the Yankees.

In other games:

Padres (ss) 5, Diamondbacks (ss) 3

At Phoenix, Randy Johnson struck out five in three shutout innings. Five months after back surgery, he gave up two hits in his second start of the spring and first against major leaguers.

Padres (ss) 6, Mariners (ss) 1

At Peoria, Ariz., Jake Peavy needed only 44 pitches to get through his final tuneup of the spring. San Diego's opening-day starter threw three shutout innings.

Giants 4, Mariners (ss) 0

At San Francisco, Barry Zito gave up three hits in six innings during his final spring training tuneup for the Giants. Barry Bonds went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles.

Devil Rays 3, Red Sox 3

At Fort Myers, Fla., Tampa Bay starter Edwin Jackson allowed one run in six innings and finished spring training with a 1.74 ERA. He was chosen Wednesday as the Devil Rays' fifth starter.

Indians 8, Braves 2

At Kissimmee, Fla., Fausto Carmona pitched six hitless innings and Cleveland touched up Tim Hudson for three runs in the fourth. New Atlanta setup man Rafael Soriano gave up two-run homers to Trot Nixon and Casey Blake in the fifth.

Phillies 5, Pirates 5

At Bradenton, Fla., Ryan Howard hit a long home run that landed on a practice field. Pat Burrell followed with another shot off Pittsburgh starter Shawn Chacon.

Royals 7, Rangers 5

At Surprise, Ariz., Sammy Sosa returned after missing four games with a stomach virus and hit his fifth homer of the spring.

Mets 13, Dodgers (ss) 2

At Vero Beach, Fla., Lastings Milledge, fighting for one of the final spots on New York's roster, returned to action after missing three games because of a bruised right hand and went 1-for-2 with an RBI. David Newhan had four hits, including two solo homers, for the Mets.

Angels (ss) 6, Dodgers (ss) 1

At Los Angeles, Gary Matthews Jr. doubled home a run and prevented another with a great catch for the Angels, who turned their third triple play of spring training.

Brewers 4, Angels (ss) 2

At Phoenix, Geoff Jenkins doubled twice and drove in three runs. Chris Capuano allowed one run in five innings.

Twins 10, Reds 2

At Sarasota, Fla., Carlos Silva followed his worst performance of spring training with his best, pitching five shutout innings for Minnesota. Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo gave up seven hits and three runs in five innings. Ken Griffey Jr. was hitless in three at-bats, leaving him 4-for-15 in five games this spring.

Yankees 6, Blue Jays 3

At Dunedin, Fla., Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter hit opposite-field homers. Rodriguez has hit all four of his home runs in the past week.

Orioles 3, Nationals 3, 10 innings

At Columbus, Ohio, Daniel Cabrera struck out seven in four scoreless innings for Baltimore, and Melvin Mora hit a two-run single.

Rockies 5, White Sox (ss) 5

At Tucson, Ariz., Colorado lefty Jeff Francis pitched two-hit ball for five scoreless innings. He struck out six and walked one. Matt Holliday hit a three-run homer off Chicago starter Jon Garland.

White Sox (ss) 5, Barons (AA) 4

At Hoover, Ala., Brian Anderson hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the eighth for Chicago, which beat its Double-A affiliate and stopped a seven-game skid.

Athletics 11, River Cats (AAA) 10

At West Sacramento, Calif., Esteban Loaiza was scratched from his scheduled start because of tightness in his upper back and neck. He is day-to-day. Mike Piazza hit a home run and a three-run double. Nick Swisher homered twice against Oakland's Triple-A farm team.

Astros (ss) 6, Express 4

At Round Rock, Texas, Jason Jennings settled down and finished with a flourish in his final spring training tuneup. Houston's No. 2 starter gave up two runs _ one earned _ in four innings, striking out the side in the fourth against Triple-A Round Rock.