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Please hold: Indians’ Joe Smith jumps the gun on relief appearance

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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Joe Smith emerges, and then retreats. (MLB.TV)

The bullpen phones at Progressive Field were fully functional on Thursday afternoon, yet Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta and his bullpen still managed to mix their signals during their 2-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

The awkward moment occurred while the Tigers were mounting a threat against starter Justin Masterson in the seventh inning. With two men aboard and one out, Acta casually strolled to the mound to discuss strategy, and perhaps gauge how much Masterson had left in the tank as he approached 100 pitches.

Meanwhile, out in the Indians bi-level bullpen stationed in right-center field, the interpretation was that Acta's appearance signified the end of Masterson's afternoon, which is an understandable assumption. It's very rare that a manager's visit doesn't involve a pitching change. But in this case, the signal never came, and reliever Joe Smith, who had jogged down the stairs and made it about 10 yards into the outfield, was forced to make a U-turn and camp out in the lower portion of the bullpen.

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As it turned out, Smith's services were not required at any point during the game. Masterson escaped the inning without any damage. Setup man Vinnie Pestano followed with a perfect eighth inning. And then closer Chris Perez converted his 16th consecutive save since opening day, as Cleveland expanded its lead to four games in the American League Central overall, and six games over the heavily favored Tigers.

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