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Piniella says pitchers aren't hunting heads
By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 27, 2005
TORONTO - As MLB disciplinarian Bob Watson considered further penalties for Sunday's scuffles with the Red Sox, Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said his pitchers didn't do anything wrong - at least not intentionally.
"I can assure you that we're not throwing at any anybody's head or anybody's ear," Piniella said. "We just want to play baseball, whether it's against Boston or any other team. Our problem here is that I've got a lot of young pitchers. And even though you can make excuses for them, and that's not what I'm trying to do, they're a little more prone.
"You can look at our (number of) pitches thrown during the course of a ballgame. You can take a look at our walks. We just don't have the command that the experienced pitchers on the experienced teams have. I'm not making excuses for anything. Nobody likes to get hit. But we're certainly not throwing at people."
But Piniella also said, as he did Sunday, that the Rays will not back down if challenged. "If we're going to get thrown at," he said, "we're not going to tolerate that, either."
Sunday's events began to unfold in the sixth inning after Boston's Bronson Arroyo hit Aubrey Huff, who is sporting a large, purple bruise on the back of his right leg.
The next inning, Rays pitcher Lance Carter threw one pitch behind Manny Ramirez and, after a warning was issued, another near the head of David Ortiz. That sparked the first of two bench-clearing incidents, during which Dewon Brazelton came off the bench and caused enough problems to be ejected, along with Boston's Trot Nixon.
Carter, in his first comments on the incidents, said Tuesday he was not throwing at Ramirez or Ortiz.
"The ball got away, period," he said. "That's all I'm going to say. ... There was no intent."
Depending on Watson's view, Carter, Brazelton, Arroyo and Nixon could all be suspended for their actions.
"We're hoping from our side that there are no suspensions," Piniella said.
The teams don't play again until July, and Piniella doesn't want any further escalation.
"Both Boston and I are hoping - I'm sure Boston feels the same way - that next we play, let's just play baseball," he said.
C.J. OKAY: The sore right shoulder that forced Charles Johnson out of Sunday's game felt better Tuesday, good enough that Piniella expects Johnson to be able to start by Thursday.
Johnson said he felt "a tweak" in his right shoulder after throwing - errantly - to second base in the first inning; he left the game in the middle of the third.
"I never really injured my arm before and my arm never bothered me before, so I was a little worried," Johnson said. "I didn't know what I did to it. But I got it checked out. Everything looks good. So I just need another day or so to get it back to where it needs to be, get it treated and get back on the field."
"He threw today and felt much better," Piniella said. "That's good news for us."
SLAM BAM: Further research by SABR's David Vincent showed the Rays made more history: They are the only team in major-league history to give up five grand slams in a 10-day span. Vincent had already found that the Rays were the only team to allow five in any April. Three teams had given up four, the 1980 Red Sox, the 2000 Padres and 2001 Royals.
PITCHING IN: Mark Hendrickson (shoulder inflammation) proved he was ready to come off the disabled list and start Saturday in Baltimore with a 10-minute afternoon session throwing to hitters.
Hendrickson, who last pitched April 13, welcomed the chance to throw to batters. "When you miss too much time, you started to get antsy, you lose the rhythm you built," Hendrickson said.
Reliever Jesus Colome (shoulder tendinitis) is also progressing and will throw off a mound Friday or Saturday. If all goes well, he will be activated sometime around May 5-7.
MISCELLANY: Toronto's Ted Lilly improved to 6-1 against Tampa Bay. ... The Rays have not won an April series on the road since 2000, at Detroit. ... Jorge Cantu extended his streak of reaching to base to 20 games - all 20 games - with a seventh-inning single. ... Carl Crawford ended an 0-for-12 streak with a home run; his 16 RBIs match his career best (June 2004) for any month.