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Of Beanballs And Meetings

Posted Aug 23, 2007 by Marc Lancaster

Updated Aug 23, 2007 at 11:54 PM

Interesting doings in the late hours tonight at the Trop, as the Rays packed more intrigue into about a 20-minute span in the ninth inning and after the game than they had in piecing together a 12-2 defeat.

Those of you still tuned in at the end saw the beanball exchange in the ninth. For those who missed it, Juan Salas drilled J.J. Furmaniak in the back with a cut fastball with his first pitch of the ninth, and though the Rays had an innocent explanation for that mistake, the A’s saw it differently. Santiago Casilla came on to pitch the ninth, and some eyebrows were raised when Ruddy Lugo started warming in the bullpen at the same time. Sure enough, Casilla’s first pitch buzzed Brendan Harris’ head as he ducked out of the way. Home plate umpire John Hirschbeck immediately tossed Casilla and Lugo came on to pitch after Oakland manager Bob Geren finished a lengthy argument.

Rays manager Joe Maddon insisted there was nothing intentional about Salas hitting Furmaniak, though he understood how it could be misconstrued under the circumstances.

“It’s unfortunate that Salas ended up hitting that guy,” said Maddon. “He’s working on a front-door cutter, and that’s something that we want him to do and it just got away, got inside. I think the part that made it look worse was the fact that he threw all strikes after that. That’s what, I’m sure, stuck in their brain. We’re just trying to get him to throw a front-door cutter and it didn’t cut.”

More upsetting to the Rays was the way Casilla chose to go about his retaliation. Getting hit in the middle of the back hurts, but it’s not nearly as dangerous as throwing high. Harris, as intelligent and level-headed a guy as there is the the Rays’ clubhouse, was not pleased with the way Casilla handled the situation.

“Salas wasn’t trying to hit anybody, so I don’t know what the point of retaliating was. He hit him pretty good, but that’s baseball,” said Harris. “I figured they might get somebody, but I didn’t think he’d throw at my head the first pitch coming out of the ‘pen and be that obvious about it. Hence, he got thrown out.”

So he was expecting something when he went to the plate?

“Well, not really. Usually he might throw some [B.S.] curveball and not be so obvious about it. Nice job on his part throwing at my head.”

Jonny Gomes also took umbrage with Casilla’s execution.

“It’s been a part of this game since the first pitch was thrown,” he said. “But a 90-mile-an-hour fastball can definitely kill someone, in the head.”

Gomes added that there is a right way to go about a payback pitch, such as the blindingly obvious Roger Clemens retaliation against the Blue Jays a week or two ago that got Clemens ejected.

“He just squared him up in the middle of the back and that’s plenty,” Gomes said of Clemens. “You don’t want to get hit in the head out here.”

The A’s side didn’t have much to say on the matter, particularly Geren.

His explanation for Casilla’s pitch: “The ball just got away from him.”

Was he surprised Casilla got ejected?

“I don’t know.”

Was he surprised there wasn’t a warning after Furmaniak was hit?

“I don’t want to comment on any of that.”

Neither Salas nor Casilla was available for comment afterward. Lugo, as he walked past us in the tunnel outside the home clubhouse, said he was merely up in the ninth to get his work in since he hadn’t pitched in a couple of days.

We were still standing outside the clubhouse more than 10 minutes after the game when we were surprised to see every Rays position player come up from the tunnel that leads to the dugout, each player still in full uniform. We thought they might have been brawling and we didn’t know about it, but it turns out hitting coach Steve Henderson called a meeting to address the team’s abysmal offensive output lately (.198 in the last 13 games if you’re scoring at home).

“It was just basically the As, Bs and Cs of winning ballgames that we’re not doing – getting guys over, getting guys in,” said Gomes. “I think it was what we needed to hear from our hitting coach, and he has our back the whole way. He just wants us all to succeed. He wanted us to sit down and get back on track.”

Harris said it was a constructive session.

“It was just, look, this has gone on too long and we’ve got to start putting this together,” he said. “Start figuring it out, concentrating a little bit more.”

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