Brawl fallout: Maddon calls Duncan slide "borderline criminal"
So much for any issues between the Rays and Yanks being "put to bed."
The Rays-Yankees spring training game Wednesday took a wild turn in the top of the second, when Yankees 1B Shelley Duncan slid spikes-high into Rays 2B Akinori Iwamura while trying to stretch a single into a double. Duncan's hard slide prompted a quick ejection, and sparked the benches to clear. Rays OF Jonny Gomes, however, got to Duncan first, racing from rightfield to shove the Yankee. The dugouts emptied, with many convening around the middle infield, with most of the action posturing and light pushing (not punching), though LF Carl Crawford said the scrum got a little "heated."
"A dirty play,'' Rays CF B.J. Upton said of Duncan's slide. "Just flat out dirty. Period.''
Rays manager Joe Maddon went a step further, discussing what he feels is a clear difference between INF Elliot Johnson's home-plate collision Saturday at Legends Field and Duncan's slide Wednesday.
"In Tampa, that play you saw at home plate was a good hard baseball play," Maddon said. "What you saw today is a definition of a dirty play. There's no room for it in our game. It's contemptible. It's wrong. It's borderline criminal. I can't believe they did it."
Duncan, if you remember, had made some veiled threats earlier this week that there would be more intensity in today's game following the much-publicized home plate collision by Johnson. The Rays felt it was just a hard play. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said it was "uncalled for" during a spring training game.
Duncan said afterwards that there was no malicious intent behind the slide, saying, "I was going hard at the glove." The first baseman said it wasn't premeditated, but when "you're out by a mile," sometimes you try some creative slides.
In the ensuing scramble in the middle infield, even SS Ben Zobrist, his left hand wrapped in a cast, raced out to help. RF Rocco Baldelli made his way out there, joking afterward, "That's all I got."
Gomes said he was taught ever since little league to "defend" your teammates. Gomes called Duncan's slide dirty, and not the Yankee way of doing things.
Gomes had to be held back by Rays bullpen coach Bobby Ramos, and he was later tossed.
"He was trying to hurt Aki," Rays RF Cliff Floyd said.
Iwamura had a cut on the inside of his right knee, which drew a little blood. The second baseman said he was mad for just a few seconds, but said those feelings were gone quickly. Iwamura said he wasn't hurt, "I'm smiling," he said with a grin. "No problem."
Duncan was one of three Yankees tossed (hitting coach Kevin Long and third base coach Bobby Meacham the others). Gomes was the only Ray ejected.
Duncan's play wasn't the first spark today. In the first inning, Yankees LHP Heath Phillips was tossed after he hit touted Rays prospect Evan Longoria with a pitch. That sparked Yankees manager Joe Girardi to argue his case with the umpire.
Phillips said it wasn't intentional, and Longoria felt the same way. The third baseman said the ball glazed his left arm.
Both teams went back to their dugout with an ovation from the sellout crowd.
-- JOE SMITH