May 13th, 2014
Remember when the Tigers were concerned enough about Tuesday’s forecast that they moved Anibal Sanchez’s simulated game up a day? Well, it’s a georgeous day in Baltimore. Radar shows a line of storms forming to the west that could head this way later, but it would be a surprise if they didn’t get the game in.
Torii Hunter’s ribs are sore, as expected, but he’s in the starting lineup. He tried to use his usual line for playing after an injury before he realized it doesn’t really fit here.
“I don’t miss games like that,” Hunter said. “It’s a long way from the heart. … Actually, it’s right next to the heart.”
Hunter also came to the defense of umpire Paul Nauert, whose contact with Hunter will be part of MLB’s investigation into the entire incident.
“That doesn’t make sense,” Hunter said. “I mean, he was just trying to get me to calm down. He was just saying, ‘Torii, you’re better than this. Come on.’ I’ve known him a long time. He wasn’t smacking me like people think. He was trying to calm me down: ‘Come on, baby, come back, come back.’ Because I was losing it. He was just trying to help me. There’s nothing to really investigate. People probably see that he was smacking me in the face, and if a player did that, he’d probably be fined. But I know him. It was all for the good.”
Instead of Hunter sitting, it’s the other Tigers corner outfielder getting the day off. Brad Ausmus said his decision was more about getting J.D. Martinez into the lineup. Davis is 6-for-30 so far in May.
Presumably, Al Alburquerque will not be available out of the bullpen tonight after pitching each of the last four days. Joba Chamberlain and Evan Reed should be back. Ian Krol has pitched back-to-back days, but has thrown just 30 pitches in that stretch.
TIGERS (career numbers off Ubaldo Jimenez)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (4-for-14, 3 doubles, 3 walks, 2 K’s)
- Torii Hunter, RF (7-for-18, double, walk, 2 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, DH (14-for-41, 4 doubles, HR, 8 walks, 8 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, 1B (7-for-21, double, 3 HR, walk, 3 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (0-for-2, walk, K)
- Austin Jackson, CF (7-for-21, walk, 9 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Alex Avila, C (5-for-22, double, HR, 7 walks, 7 K’s)
- Andrew Romine, SS
P: Drew Smyly
ORIOLES (career numbers vs. Smyly)
- Nick Markakis, LF (0-for-4)
- Manny Machado, 3B (0-for-1)
- Adam Jones, CF (0-for-3)
- Chris Davis, 1B (0-for-3, 3 K’s)
- Nelson Cruz, LF (1-for-5, 3 walks, 2 K’s)
- J.J. Hardy, SS (0-for-1, walk)
- Steve Pearce, DH (0-for-1, K)
- Jonathan Schoop, 2B (0-for-1, K)
- Caleb Joseph, C
P: Ubaldo Jimenez
After all the shouting, the only actual person-to-person contact in question from the whole incident came from umpire Paul Nauert, who appeared to put his right hand up to Hunter’s face in an effort to calm him down. That slight contact, too, will be reviewed as part of Major League Baseball’s investigation into the incident.
The review is part of the standard operating procedure for all on-field incidents, an MLB spokesperson said.
It was soft contact, and Hunter brushed off any perceived ill will toward Nauert when talking about it after the game. Still, with players often disciplined for making contact with umpires during arguments, it figures that the reverse scenario would also get a look.
Hunter did not make it sound like an incident.
“No, no, that’s my guy,” Hunter said after the game. “He was trying to say, ‘Hey, cover your mouth.’ He was trying to cover my mouth. No, that’s my buddy, man.
“I’ve known him too long [to get angry]. He was trying to get me to [calm down] — ‘C’mon, T.’ He said you’re way better than that, and he’s right. I’m sorry to the fans. I apologize to the fans for my reaction. Sometimes you just have the passion, and things like that happen. It happens.”
That part came on the follow-up to the original exchange between Norris and Hunter, as Hunter was making his way to first base. Nauert had spent the first part of the argument trying to calm down Norris on the mound.
The tempers had seemingly cooled, and Norris, who had been ejected by home-plate umpire James Hoye, was at the dugout steps when he and Hunter began jawing again. Hunter began shouting back from first base as Tigers first-base coach Omar Vizquel tried to keep him from taking any steps toward the dugout.
Quickly, Nauert intervened and got in between them, which is when the contact happened. Replays seemingly showed Hunter reacting to the contact, but it wasn’t clear if he was talking to Nauert or still angry about Norris.
Nauert has been a Major League umpire since 1999 and umpired for a decade in the Minor Leagues before that. Hunter’s first full Major League season was in ’99.
As the Detroit News pointed out, an argument over a called third strike in 2009 turned heated when umpire Paul Schrieber put his hand on Magglio Ordonez’s back during their exchange to try to direct him back to the dugout. Then-Tigers manager Jim Leyland became livid and picked up the argument, admitting later that he “lost it.”
Schrieber apologized in a statement the next day, saying he was only trying to keep from having to eject Ordonez.
There is nothing in baseball’s rules specifically addressing umpire-player contact, but The Official Baseball Rules has a section called, “General Instructions to Umpires,” which includes the following paragraph:
“You are the only official representative of baseball on the ball field. It is often a trying position which requires the exercise of much patience and good judgment, but do not forget that the first essential in working out of a bad situation is to keep your own temper and self-control.”
Torii Hunter has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best people in the game. It’s a rarity to see him react like he did Monday. The only time he came close as a Tiger might have been last year, when an opposing pitcher threw a ball up and in near his head, and even that didn’t compare.
Bud Norris’ pitch was a 93-94 mph fastball (depending on the stadium radar gun or the Gameday reading) at Hunter’s ribs. Not even the 10-minute “cooling off” period postgame could cool his emotions about it.
“The guy had control,” Hunter said. “I was actually thinking he’s got good stuff today, he’s pitching pretty well. And boy, he just all of a sudden lost it? I mean, get in front of a pitching machine — I want all the people out there to get in front of a pitching machine, put it on 94, just hold your ribs up and take one, see what how turns out for you.”
Norris denied the pitch was intentional.
“First of all, I respect him and the game he’s played for a long time,” he said of Hunter. “I respect everything he’s done, but at the same token, I’m trying to do my job playing the game.
“I threw a first pitch slider. He took a really aggressive hack at it. Tried to throw a four-seam slider in, and it kind of got in on me. Late in the game, 115 pitches, whatever it may be, I’m sorry he didn’t appreciate it, but at the same token, I’m trying to throw a ball over the plate and get an out, ground ball to third base or something.”
Here’s how crew chief Bob Davidson described it:
“Kinsler hits a two-run homer and then the next hitter gets drilled. I thought [plate umpire James] Hoye handled it properly. I think that’s what anybody would have done. It’s a fastball that drilled the guys in the ribs, and I think Hoye did the right thing [to eject him]. That’s pretty much what it was.”
At some point, the pain over the pitch turned into anger.
“You know what, sometimes it comes out in all of us,” Hunter said. “We have anger issues and we just have to try to control them. If I hit you in the ribs at 94 miles an hour, it stings and all you see is red, I can’t explain it to you. You just try to calm yourself down.
“You saw me walking around, just trying to calm myself down. It was painful, especially when you think that it was on purpose. If I didn’t think that was on purpose, if Kinsler didn’t hit a home run, I wouldn’t have argued right there. I’d just take the pain and walk to first.”
That, he clearly didn’t do.
“It’s just like a pickup basketball game. You know, two guys, they get a foul and we argue, we do what we do,” Hunter said. “That’s just sports. That’s baseball. It’s just adrenaline going. Once you calm yourself down, you think about the situation and it doesn’t make sense. I’ve got kids in college. I can’t be doing that.”
Said Norris: “He’s entitled to his opinion, but I think he did overreact a little bit. I didn’t like the first swing he took on my slider, so I didn’t think I was going to jump out to the other half of the plate again. I know I worked inside, on both sides of the plate with [catcher Steve] Clevenger all day and got some ground balls in. Tried to throw a four-seamer in. He didn’t like it, and I guess he did overreact if that’s the way he feels.”
And then Norris took it a step further, seemingly suggesting Hunter’s reaction drew the ejection:
“His reaction kind of stirred the umpire too, stirred up their bench too.”
Asked about that, Hunter said: “I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t know what happened. I mean, I wasn’t trying to get him ejected or anything. I was just talking to him. We had a nice talk.”
That talk might well have gotten Norris the final cause for ejection.
“I don’t know exactly when I decided when to throw him,” Hoye told a pool reporter. “When I did throw him, I guess that’s when I decided. I don’t know when, the sequence of events.”
Norris’ catcher, Steve Clevenger, said the ejection caught him by surprise. He also brought up another issue, when Ian Krol was missing inside on Nick Markakis in the seventh inning.
“We’ve been working in all game long,” Clevenger said. “Krol came in the last inning and buzzed Nicky a couple times and nothing was said, but when we worked in and got hit, he ejected him. I don’t agree with the call, but the call is the call.”
Then came the second blow-up, bringing Hunter to yell back and forth with Norris, who by then was on his way into the Orioles dugout.
“Before he got to the dugout, he looked back and said something,” Hunter said, “staring at me, saying something, I don’t know. But I’m too old for that, man. I mean, picking on the old guy? Come on. Really? I’ve probably got more hits than he does days in his life.”
Said Hoye: “I think Bud Norris was the instigator in that position again.”
He has been there before, including this season. Benches cleared at Fenway Park a few weeks ago after Norris hit David Ross with a pitch. Norris now has hit five batters this season. Just two Major League pitchers, Pittsburgh’s Charlie Morton and Texas’ Robbie Ross, have more.
“I heard bad things about him,” Hunter said, “but I mean, you can’t go by what you hear. But after tonight, maybe so.”
Norris, understandably, does not appreciate the reputation.
“A lot of people have a lot of opinions but I’ll tell you right now, I’m going out there and trying to get outs,” he said. “David Ross apologized immediately after that one. I don’t know what’s going to happen here. Torii can take what he wants from it.”
Hunter did, however, downplay the reaction springing up about umpire Paul Nauert putting a hand to his face, a highlight that got a ton of play on Deadspin immediately afterwards.
“No, no, that’s my guy,” Hunter insisted. “He was trying to cover my mouth. That’s my buddy. I’ve known him too long. He said you’re way better than that, and he’s right. I’m sorry to fans. I apologize to the fans for my reaction. Sometimes you just have the passion and things like that happen.”