Yesterday’s spring training game seemed to have all of the drama of a mid-August pennant chase. A hit batter (possibly intentional), a constantly changing lead, and two grand slams – one off former Indians pitcher Alex White. While it’s probably for the best, I’m almost a little disappointed that the Indians won’t face the Rockies again this season.
There has been a feud brewing between Ubaldo Jimenez and the Colorado Rockies for a while now. There are reports that Jimenez was upset when long-term contracts were given to Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, yet not to him. Jimenez later went on to say that playing in Cleveland was like “heaven,” especially when compared to Colorado. Tulowitzki reportedly talked back to the media and took some digs at Jimenez. On the radio broadcast yesterday, Tom Hamilton and Jim Rosenhaus reported that Tulowitzki actually said something along the lines of “if you want a big contract, you have to work for it.” Basically this has been brewing as Jimenez and his former teammates take jabs at each other through the media.
This all came to a head in the first inning of yesterday’s spring training game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the Rockies’ home park. In the first inning, with one out and one on, Jimenez hit Tulowitzki with the first pitch of his at-bat. Both players started yelling at each other and Tulowitzki walked toward the mound. The benches cleared, and players got in between the two to keep the fight from escalating. After calm was restored, Jimenez remained in the game and Tulowitzki was pulled for a pinch runner. On the radio, it sounded as if the ball hit Tulowitzki’s back; it turns out that he had his left elbow examined after he left the game (x-rays were negative).
One of the things that made this whole situation even more bizarre is that this was a non-televised game and Commissioner Bud Selig just happened to be in attendance. While initially there were reports that no video of the incident existed, it sounds as if there is one floating around. It’s unknown whether or not Selig will punish Jimenez with a suspension for the incident. One line of thinking is that he won’t take action, because the umpire did not eject Jimenez for an intentional throw. The theory is that Selig won’t want to overrule an umpire that already handled the situation with a warning to both benches. Others are certain that Selig must do something, because it was an intentional move and could’ve hurt Tulowitzki. While it certainly sounds pretty suspicious, I really don’t want to definitively say it was intentional or unintentional without seeing a video. Jimenez was relatively wild early in the game, so it’s certainly possible the ball got away from him (which, incidentally, is his version of the incident). However, it does seem suspicious that Tulowitzki is talking about him in the media, and then gets hit with the first pitch. While the games are a bit more spread out at the beginning of the season, you still don’t want to skip a start for your number 2 pitcher.
As for the rest of the game, the fireworks were provided by both teams’ offenses. Travis Hafner hit a first inning grand slam off of one-time Indian Jeremy Guthrie. The second grand slam from Shelley Duncan came in the seventh inning when he went yard off of Alex White. (Ironically, one of the players involved in the Jimenez trade). White, who did not do well in Colorado after the trade last summer with the Rockies, did not win a spot in the Rockies rotation this spring. He will pitch out of the bullpen. EDIT: It’s now being reported that he didn’t even make the roster as a bullpen pitcher. The other major player in the trade, Drew Pomeranz, was briefly demoted to Triple-A to start the season. By the sounds of it, this was simply because the fifth starter’s spot wasn’t necessary at the very beginning of the season and they wanted to keep Pomeranz on normal rest.
Despite the drama, the Indians managed to pull out a 12-10 win; this snaps their 10-game losing streak during spring training. Their last game in Arizona is at 3:05 EST today against the Reds; they’ll travel to Zebulon, North Carolina, on Tuesday for an exhibition game against the single-A Carolina Mudcats to show off their new stadium. Wednesday is an off-day, and then it’s Opening Day on Thursday!