DETROIT -- It took Michelangelo four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It takes Rafael Betancourt nearly that long to pitch an inning of a baseball game. Hey, sometimes great works take time. At least, that's Betancourt's rationale.
And though the umpiring crew in Tuesday night's game against the Tigers docked him twice with an automatic ball call for exceeding his time limit between pitches with no one on base, the slow-working Betancourt has no intention of altering his approach. "I'm not going to change the way I pitch," he said. "When I'm pitching, I'm not counting how many seconds it is between pitches." But on Tuesday, second-base umpire Doug Eddings was. Eddings used a stopwatch to determine that Betancourt broke one of baseball's rarely enforced rules. Rule 8.04 states that when the bases are empty, a pitcher must deliver a pitch within 12 seconds of receiving the ball from the catcher. The count begins when the pitcher has the ball and the batter is in the box, "alert to the pitcher." In the eighth inning, with the Indians and Tigers locked in a 4-4 tie, Betancourt was assessed an automatic ball for breaking that rule while in an 0-2 count with Carlos Guillen. That prompted manager Eric Wedge to charge out on the field and argue the call, almost to the point of an ejection. "That's the first time that's been called all year, and we're at the All-Star break," Wedge said. "That's ridiculous. Guillen was in and out of the box 10 times. If he's going to do that, every time he steps out, you should start over with the stopwatch." The rule was enforced on Betancourt again in the ninth, turning a 2-2 count on Brandon Inge into a full count. That the umps were even counting the seconds between pitches seemed fishy to Wedge. After the game, he speculated that Tigers manager Jim Leyland might have asked the umpires to time Betancourt. But after speaking with Leyland before Wednesday's game, Wedge said his fellow skipper had assured him that wasn't the case. Wedge hinted that the Commissioner's Office could have tipped off the umpiring crew to look for the infraction. "Jim didn't have anything to do with it," Wedge said. "Someone gave them a heads-up, and they were ready for it. Who knows why? The important thing is... let 'em play. At that point in the game, talk about getting involved and disrupting the ballgame unnecessarily." Betancourt didn't let the drama prevent him from pitching a pair of scoreless innings. "I won't name names, but I see a lot of guys take a long time in the big leagues, and [the umpires] don't say anything," he said. "It's kind of hard to worry about something else when you have to face a big-league hitter." Nor does Wedge want his setup man worrying about the ticking of the clock. "I want Raffy to pitch the way Raffy pitches," he said. Slow and steady it is, then. Here's the question... Ben Francisco has hit three home runs in his first eight Major League games this season. Do you remember which Tribe rookie hit three homers in his first five big-league games in 2006? Back-end boom: Joe Borowski couldn't explain it, but his arm felt great Tuesday night, even after working the final inning for the fifth time in six games. "It must be the Pollock in me," he joked. Borowski's recent work has helped him pad his stats before the All-Star break. In those five appearances, he's notched a win and four saves. "On the flip side, you can go 11 days without getting an opportunity," he said. "So these [stretches] are nice." Borowski and Betancourt have been the workhorses of an improved Indians bullpen. But lately, they've been getting some impressive help from their supporting cast. Rafael Perez worked out of a bases-loaded jam Monday against the Devil Rays and Tom Mastny did likewise Tuesday against the Tigers. Borowski believes such performances will help those youngsters down the line. "When you get some success, you start to believe you can do it every time," he said. "Doubt doesn't enter your mind anymore." On this date: One year ago, the Indians provided plenty of Fourth of July fireworks with a 19-1 pasting of the Yankees at Jacobs Field. It was the Tribe's largest home margin of victory since a 21-2 thumping of the Philadelphia A's on June 18, 1950. Tribe tidbits: Francisco's homer was the third pinch-hit homer for the Indians this season. That ties the Blue Jays for the most in the AL and is the most by an Indians team since they hit three in 2004. ... When Paul Byrd walked Magglio Ordonez in the fifth inning of Tuesday's game, it was the first unintentional walk issued by Byrd since April 26, against the Rangers' Kenny Lofton. That's a span of 77 1/3 innings. "It had to come to an end eventually," Byrd said. "It was a 3-2 count, and I missed considerably." Down on the farm: Starter Eric Dubose gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits over six innings in Triple-A Buffalo's 10-3 loss to Rochester on Tuesday. ... Scott Lewis gave up four runs on 10 hits over four innings in Double-A Akron's 5-3 loss to Erie. ... Sung-Wei Tseng pitched six scoreless innings in which he allowed just four hits in Class A Kinston's 5-0 win over Wilmington. ... Hector Rondon and Neil Wagner combined on Class A Lake County's second no-hitter of the year against Delmarva. In this one, Rondon pitched six innings and Wagner worked three in a 3-0 win. And the answer is... Kevin Kouzmanoff, now with the Padres, hit three homers in his first five games last season. His first big-league at-bat (Sept. 2 in Texas) saw him hit a grand slam on the first pitch he saw. On deck: C.C. Sabathia (12-2, 3.20 ERA) and Justin Verlander (9-3, 3.18) are two of the handful of pitchers getting consideration for the start for the AL in next Tuesday's All-Star Game, and they'll be on display in Thursday's finale of this three-game set against the Tigers. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. ET at Comerica Park.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.