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Umpire McClelland gets rare mound work

Calls balls and strikes from behind pitcher after home plate umpire injured

Umpire McClelland gets rare mound work

PHOENIX -- From the "only in Spring Training" department, the Angels and Brewers briefly played Tuesday without a home plate umpire.

Seth Buckminster suffered a broken bone in his left hand when he was struck by a Wily Peralta pitch that deflected off Angels star Albert Pujols with two outs in the top of the first inning. Buckminster was tended to by a Brewers athletic trainer and left the field immediately, along with another ump, Anthony Johnson, who quickly changed into Buckminster's gear.

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In the meantime, veteran umpires Tim McClelland and Jim Joyce covered all of the bases, with Joyce stationed at first base and McClelland behind the pitcher's mound calling balls and strikes.

"Just keep it moving," McClelland said. "We didn't want people to sit. Both managers agreed to it, and I knew it wasn't going to be long. This way we didn't have to sit and could keep the game going."

It made for a strange scene, but Peralta induced an inning-ending groundout from Josh Hamilton, and Angels starter Jason Vargas took over in the bottom of the first.

"I don't remember the last time I was pitching like that -- probably Little League when I was, like, 13 years old," said the Dominican-born Peralta. "It just forgot about it and [focused on] the hitters. It felt a little weird when he called, 'Ball!' behind me. It was like, 'Oh, God!'"

Three batters into the bottom of the inning, after Rickie Weeks' two-run home run put the Brewers on top 2-0, and with a 1-and-2 count on Ryan Braun, Johnson came running back onto the field to applause and took his position behind the plate. The game proceeded with a three-man crew.

"I've never done that before," said Vargas, who surrendered the homer to Weeks on a 1-and-1 pitch. "I only had to do it for one or two hitters. It wasn't that big of a deal. Make adjustments, I guess."

Brewers games have been hazardous for umpires this week. On Monday, the Brewers-Indians game in Goodyear, Ariz., was delayed for 12 minutes in the fourth inning when Indians slugger Mark Reynolds struck plate umpire Patrick Mahoney on the head with his follow-through on a swing. Mahoney left the game, but play was suspended while a replacement donned his gear.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke praised Tuesday's crew for handling the situation differently. He said he tried convincing Monday's crew to do the same.

"You get a great view from back there, you really do," Roenicke said. "It's almost better than behind the plate. We used to do it all the time in the Minor Leagues. I think it's important, because you've got a pitcher out there, and if you can do it, keep it going."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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