ST. PETERSBURG — Don Zimmer said first-year Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who he considers "like a son," was wrong. Girardi offered Rays manager Joe Maddon some more unsolicited advice. Elliot Johnson became more famous in New York than he is around Tampa Bay. Yankees infielder Shelley Duncan said there could be more to come when the teams meet again Wednesday in St. Petersburg.
And this was all the day after the home-plate collision that had both teams buzzing.
Early Sunday morning, Zimmer said he was "surprised" and "dumbfounded" by Girardi's objections to Johnson crashing into Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli on Saturday, based on the idea that teams shouldn't play that aggressively in spring training games.
"Of all people — Joe Girardi's a tough guy, a tough catcher. I don't know what spring training's got to do with it," Zimmer said. "I think he was out of line. That's the best way I can put it, whether he likes that or not. That's the way I feel."
Girardi took another swipe at Maddon, who had said he'd "never read" the supposed rule against running into catchers during spring games, by suggesting Maddon needed to provide clearer direction to his players, again citing that the Rays' Carl Crawford also collided with a catcher last week against Houston.
"I'm all for playing hard. You should play hard. But that's a play that there is no memo," Girardi said in Tampa on Sunday morning. "But (Maddon's) comment after the last one is, 'We'd like to see more plays like that from our team' when Crawford did it. Sometimes, kids can't decipher when to do it and when not to do it."
Girardi also reiterated that he didn't "understand" the Rays' approach and it was "disheartening" because Cervelli sustained a fractured wrist on the play and will be out 8-10 weeks.
Maddon said he was "a little bit surprised" by Girardi's reaction and stuck to his position that "it was a good hard baseball play. We have to play the game one way all the time. That's the way we do things."
Johnson, meanwhile, wasn't sure what to make of his new-found celebrity, as he was on the back page of all three New York tabloids Sunday morning with headlines assigning various degrees of blame.
Johnson, who turned 24 Sunday, said he expected the Yankees to retaliate against him, and Duncan, one of their most fiery players, did little to defuse that idea. Duncan told reporters in Fort Myers the incident "opens another chapter of intensity to spring training ball games in my mind. They showed what is acceptable to them and how they're going to play the game. So we're going to go out there and match that intensity or even exceed it."
So would he be on a mission if he's rounding third Wednesday?
"I don't know," he said. "That will be determined between third and home."
Maddon said he considered the issue one of "philosophical differences" and essentially over but also made a point to say "I really respect" Cervelli for saying the play was "part of the game."
When told Girardi said he might want to have a talk about the whole issue, Maddon said he liked Girardi and, "If he would like to have a conversation, God, I'd like to talk about politics, I'm good with global warming, I'm good with a lot of different topics on a daily basis. I like iTunes, I download some stuff off iTunes, I like different restaurants, I like red wine. I have a lot of different areas I can do conversationally."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]m.