Female umpire flawless in MLB exhibition game

Associated Press • Mar 30, 2007 at 12:51 PM

Kenny Rogers and Eric Gagne will start the season on the disabled list, while Freddy Sanchez and Jim Edmonds might be ready soon.

But the most intriguing person on the field at spring training Thursday has no shot at being in the big leagues next week - she'll be making close calls in the minors.

Ria Cortesio became the first female umpire to work a major league exhibition game since Pam Postema in 1989 when she was on the bases as the Chicago Cubs beat an Arizona Diamondbacks split squad 7-4 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. That's her plan.

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

At Lakeland, Fla., Rogers was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a tired arm, a move that makes 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.

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.

At Bradenton, Fla., 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.

At Jupiter, Fla., 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.

"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."

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:

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

At Sarasota, Fla., Carlos Silva followed his worst performance of spring training with his best, pitching five shutout innings for Minnesota.

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.

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.

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