Major Leagues: When pitches sail high, tempers go up, too

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 17, 2009

Associated Press
Check the baseball highlights lately and it’s hard to tell whether you’re watching MLB or WWE.
Kevin Youkilis charges the mound, chucks his helmet and tackles a pitcher. Prince Fielder tries to barge into the opposing clubhouse. Ian Kinsler gets off the ground and confronts the catcher.
Is it HBP … or Raw?
They were the lucky ones ó David Wright, Scott Rolen and Edgar Gonzalez are on the disabled list because of beanballs.
Summer temperatures are up, and so are tempers. There seems to be a heightened pitch around the majors after a recent rash of high-and-tight fastballs.
“It’s a little more intense out there,” San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said Monday.
This typically is the month when a lot of big league batters get nicked. An average of 314 hitters were plunked in August during the previous four seasons; the rate is under 300 in every preceding month over the same span, according to STATS.
“You know when the guy is getting hit on purpose and you know when the guy is not getting hit on purpose,” Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “To me, it’s a lot of kids on the mound that don’t know how to pitch.”
Whether it’s payback or not doesn’t always matter to the guys getting drilled.
“Sometimes it gets to the point where any pitch inside, it hits a batter, it’s on purpose,” Bochy said this weekend.
“It’s not something you can prevent. As long as this game’s been played, it’s going to happen,” he said. “Baseball has a way to take care of its own issues. With that said, more is done today as far as fines, suspensions, to prevent these beanball wars.”
Bochy and the Giants got embroiled Saturday after Matt Cain’s heater hit Wright squarely in the helmet. New York Mets ace Johan Santana then threw behind Pablo Sandoval and hit Bengie Molina.
A week earlier, St. Louis pitcher Brad Thompson was suspended three games after zinging a fastball past Wright. The purpose pitch came after Cardinals stars Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick got hit.
Guillen, as usual, had plenty to say.
“Around the league, be careful because we’re going to hit people,” he said. “If I see someone hit my player, and I know they hit him on purpose it’s two guys going down. I don’t care if I get suspended. I rather have me suspended for two games than have my players on the DL for 30 days.”
Youkilis had seen ó and felt ó enough at Fenway Park when he got hit by a pitch from Detroit’s Rick Porcello. The Boston star rushed the rookie, triggering a bench-clearing brawl that drew five-game suspensions for both main combatants.
Rolen bore no ill will toward Colorado’s Jason Marquis after a beanball. Recently acquired by Cincinnati, Rolen flashed a sign to the pitcher that he was OK. Marquis later called the Reds’ clubhouse.
“We talked. We go back a long way. Our families are friends,” Rolen said.
Gonzalez has been out of the lineup since he was hit in the head by Colorado’s Jason Hammel. The San Diego second baseman said he “felt my brain move backward” at impact.
Kinsler felt fine, moments after a fastball from Boston’s Fernando Cabrera ricocheted off his shoulder and hit him in the helmet. The Texas star got off the ground and began jawing with Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek.
“We were able to talk after the game and put it behind us,” Kinsler said.
AP Baseball Writer Mike Fitzpatrick, AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta and AP freelance writer Patrick Rose contributed to this report.