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Span upset at Lee for up-and-in quick-pitch

May 3, 2014, 12:07 AM EDT

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PHILADELPHIA — Benches and bullpens emptied in the fifth inning at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night, and though no punches were thrown between the Nationals and Phillies, Denard Span and Cliff Lee did exchange some verbal barbs about an incident sparked by Lee’s up-and-in quick-pitch to an unsuspecting Span.

“I don’t think he was trying to hit me,” Span said following the Nats’ 5-3 victory. “But the fact that you’re coming inside and you’re trying to quick-pitch me when I’m not looking, that’s too dangerous. I mean, I’m not even looking. You throw a fastball inside? If you throw a fastball away and quick-pitch me, OK. But … he’s too good of a pitcher to quick-pitch like that when a guy’s not looking. He’s too good.”

Span was standing in the batter’s box with one out and runners on second and third, looking down and going into his pre-pitch routine when Lee fired a fastball well inside and up in the zone. Span didn’t see the ball until it buzzed past him, then looked at Lee, shrugged his shoulders and could be seen saying: “Come on, man.”

Nothing else happened immediately, and when Span grounded out to second, driving in a run, that figured to be the end of the story. But as he jogged back to the Nationals’ dugout, he heard Lee speaking at an unusually high volume toward plate umpire Jim Reynolds.

“He loud-talked the umpire, saying: ‘If he’s in the box, he needs to be ready to hit,’” Span said. “When he said that, I was like: ‘OK, you’re talking to me, indirectly. So I’m going to go tell you what I have to say now.’”

Span turned toward Lee and said a few words of his own, at which point both club’s benches and bullpen emptied. Order was restored without any physical confrontation between the two teams, but each side clearly was steamed.

“I threw a ball, so maybe he was mad because it was close to him,” Lee said. “But if they are going to stand there and not look, I’m going to throw a pitch. I think it’s on the hitter to be in the box and make sure they are ready. I’ll take advantage of that every time I can.”

Span took issue less with the fact Lee quick-pitched and more with the fact said pitch was up-and-in. Having suffered two concussions in the last three years, including one only three weeks ago, Span is particularly sensitive about anything involving the potential for head injuries.

“I had my head down, and he came up-and-in,” he said. “I didn’t like that. If one slips, hits me in the head when I’m not looking … it’s just over something stupid. I have the utmost respect for him. I’ve been competing against him for a long time. But I didn’t like that at all. It was nothing like I wanted to go after him and fight him or anything like that. I just wanted to let him know I didn’t appreciate that. We’re playing this game trying not to get guys hurt. Whenever you do something like that to me, I think that’s not good at all.”

Span claims Reynolds was equally surprised and upset by the pitch and said he would speak to Lee about it. But the benches cleared as the umpire was talking the left-hander.

“No one was really mad or anything,” Lee said. “I think it got overblown. I don’t think he was mad, and I wasn’t mad. I was just trying to explain what happened, especially in that situation: second and third, one out. If a guy is going to get in the batter’s box and not look, I’m going to throw a pitch. There’s no way around it. I think it’s on the hitter to pay attention when you’re in the box.”

Reynolds did inform every Nationals pitcher who appeared in the game after that point that warnings had been issued and any retaliation would result in an automatic ejection. The game continued without incident, though tempers might have flared in the bottom of the ninth when Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz was called for obstruction on a high and hard takeout of shortstop Ian Desmond trying to turn a double play.

Span spoke afterward as though the tiff with Lee was closed in his mind.

“Me and him have been competing against each other for a long time,” he said. “I’ve never had a problem with him. It was nothing like I wanted to go and fight him. Cause if I wanted to fight him, I could’ve got to him, easily. If I really wanted to. But that’s not what I wanted to do. I’m here to play baseball.”

  1. Sonny G 10 - May 3, 2014 at 1:59 AM

    Gotta be careful Denard. Like you said, you’ve had a concussion. Lee was being a punk though. He deserved to lose the game for that.

  2. TimDz - May 3, 2014 at 2:08 AM

    At least Denard didn’t go full on Nyger on him….

    • unkyd59 - May 3, 2014 at 7:01 AM

      Nyjer

  3. dgourds - May 3, 2014 at 3:17 AM

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is that during the pitch before, Denard called time after Lee took a long time in the stretch and the umpire granted it. You can tell it pissed Lee off. Now Span does take a while to get ready in the box, twirling his bat while looking down. Technically Lee can pitch when he is in the batter’s box. But it’s an understood rule that the batter must be ready–looking at the pitcher. It’s one thing to try to “steal a strike” as FP said, but to come in inches from his head shows real anger. Denard handled the situation perfectly imo. First, he stood up to Lee, questioning him in a civil way. Then he knocked the run in. Great. Then when Lee kept the issue going with the ump, Denard appropriately confronted him leading to the benches clearing. I believe this is what this team needed. We need some FIRE! Remember when Bo Porter single handedly took on the Cubs bench in 2012? It set the tone for the rest of the season. Don’t f#$ K with us. I think it was great. It was especially awesome we came back to beat those jerks and that Chooch was called out on the double play attempt in the ninth. Great overall job by the umps. We’ve got to dominate the Phillies this year. We’re off to a good start! My respect for Denard has gone way up tonight.

    • David Proctor - May 3, 2014 at 4:12 AM

      “Remember when Bo Porter single handedly took on the Cubs bench in 2012? It set the tone for the rest of the season”

      It happened in September.

      • NatsNut - May 3, 2014 at 7:11 AM

        And when the benches cleared, Bo stayed in the 3B coach’s box, just like the ump had scolded him to do in his earlier altercation. Darn close to the funniest thing I think I’ve seen on a ball field.

  4. David Proctor - May 3, 2014 at 4:12 AM

    Honestly, this entire thing is being overblown. The real dirty play of the game was Ruiz’s “slide” on Desi. We’re lucky Desmond didn’t get a serious injury from that.

    • 3on2out - May 3, 2014 at 6:02 AM

      As usual, David Proctor makes a salient point. The quick pitch is a non-issue and within the rules. Lee’s only mistake was not throwing a strike when he was trying to steal one. I suspect he was horrified he missed the plate and particularly up and in.

      The Ruiz slide was the most blatant and illegal take-out slide I have ever seen. Ruiz didn’t even pretend to try to make contact with the bag. The ump made the interference call without hesitation. THAT was the punk play of the game!

    • secretwasianman - May 3, 2014 at 7:08 AM

      Not overblown. Throwing near someone’s head especially when they are not looking is dangerous.

      • scbilly - May 3, 2014 at 9:49 AM

        Especially when the particular player is only another concussion or two from an early end to his career. Does Lee know that? I don’t know, but Denard certainly does.

    • therealjohnc - May 3, 2014 at 9:42 AM

      Even Span said that he wouldn’t have been upset with a quick pitch if it was away – it was the location, not the quick pitch, that angered him. And rightly so, because it’s dangerous.

    • dcwx61 - May 3, 2014 at 10:32 AM

      It may not be overblown if your name is Denard Span.
      And then there is another Phillies pitcher who was proud of throwing at a Nat, or the fans cheering a Nats injury. There is a rivalry between the two teams that sometimes pushes the anger button.

  5. secretwasianman - May 3, 2014 at 7:06 AM

    Lee quick pitched and threw it high and tight on purpose. Punk move. And shame on FP for saying he was just trying to steal a strike. Not so.

    • npb99 - May 3, 2014 at 8:03 AM

      Good point. Lee has great control, has walked only six so far this year. No reason to think he badly missed the plate with that pitch.

    • nats128 - May 3, 2014 at 8:31 AM

      It is in the realm of possibilities and you are correct that FP didnt consider that it could have been a purpose pitch.

    • natsfan1a - May 3, 2014 at 9:09 AM

      I like FP, but when he started a sentence afterwards with “in [Span's] defense,” I started yapping at my tv – What do you mean “in his defense”? He didn’t do anything wrong. He’s had a couple of concussions and doesn’t want to get beaned.

  6. TimDz - May 3, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    Somebody on Philthy gets one in the ribs tonight….if he plays tonight, my guess is Cooch….

    • nats128 - May 3, 2014 at 8:36 AM

      Ya think? That will be something to watch for or the classic throw behind.

      • TimDz - May 3, 2014 at 8:41 AM

        If Davey was still in charge, I’d say no….but Matty W may try to make a statement here…..
        My only concern is that Span may get plunked in the first at bat, and both benches get warned, taking the opportunity away….
        That, or the umps give warnings right away…..at least that way, it’s a level playing field….

      • nats128 - May 3, 2014 at 10:13 AM

        I dont think the umps will give warnings until a purpose pitch is thrown.

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - May 3, 2014 at 9:00 AM

    Here’s what Cliff Lee said about the pitch ” I think it’s on the hitter to be in the box and make sure they are ready. I’ll take advantage of that every time I can.”

    Those words tell me Lee was just trying to steal a pitch and rushed himself where he didn’t throw a good pitch. Could he have been throwing the up & in as a statement pitch? Only Lee knows.

    Span’s response was great. Basically embarrassing Lee when he stared him down with the “C’mon Man” and after the game saying “He’s too good of a pitcher to quick-pitch like that when a guy’s not looking. He’s too good.”

    Basically called him Bush League. I think message sent but I will be watching to see if MW has Fanner Roark throw behind a Phoolie tonight.

    • Whynat - May 3, 2014 at 10:06 AM

      In the Kolko interview right after the game in outright called him bush league. “That’s bush league, man”

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 3, 2014 at 10:09 AM

        I love it. Good for Denard. That will bruise the ego.

  8. kirbs3256 - May 3, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    If MW who I know him to be, Ruiz is catching a FB I’m the ribs. The only thing Lee did wrong was get it up and in. If that pitch is a strike, its a non issue. But Ruiz was strait dirty, nasty cheap baseball.

  9. ehay2k - May 3, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    I think that last night’s drama is over. Too early in the season for the Nats to be starting something, especially over trivial issues. But I also believe that if the Philthies act first, you can bet the Nats will stand up to them. That is the difference between this year’s team and the one from 2013.

    Throwing multiple times at us will NOT get a pass from the Nats this year.

    • kirbs3256 - May 3, 2014 at 9:33 AM

      Why is it acting first if they tried to kill our SS?

      • ehay2k - May 3, 2014 at 10:16 AM

        Not sure that was deliberate. Looked like chooch just got too far down the line, the realized he couldn’t slide. He is not a dirty player. At any rate, MW wasn’t mad about it after the game.

  10. Eugene in Oregon - May 3, 2014 at 9:15 AM

    Best response from Nats would be plating a bunch of runs early and holding the Phillies scoreless.

  11. Joe Seamhead - May 3, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    The rattling of the swords on here crack me up. Pick your battles carefully. This one is not worth it. Lee’s antics have been blown out of proportion. Chooch, however,was guilty of a play that if it had happened on a football field it would have called for a 15 yard penalty for unnecessary roughness. It still isn’t worth risking getting Roark tossed, or worse, suspended for retaliating.

  12. Ghost of Steve M. - May 3, 2014 at 10:04 AM

    Nats OPS is .852 now vs the opposition bullpens and for anyone complaining about execution with RISP, I want you to analyze what Werth, LaRoche and Rendon have done and then look at the rest of the team.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/split_stats_team.cgi?full=1&params=bases%7CRISP%7CWSN%7C2014%7Cbat%7CAB%7C

    In addition, for a fun comparison, Mike Trout is a #2 hitter and only has 18 RBIs and 21 Runs scored. Look what Anthony Rendon has done. Rendon is 11th in the Majors with 21 RBIs and also has 20 runs scored. That’s amazing production from the 2 hole.

    • nats128 - May 3, 2014 at 10:19 AM

      Rendon would laugh being compared in the same sentence with Trout. I dont know how Rendon has ended up with this many RBI chances this early in the season. Hes certainly making the most of them.

      Espinosa and Lobaton have been dreadful in key spots. Moore in a small sample size has been a K machine in key spots. One of MWs big mistakes was moving Danny up to the 2 hole for a game last week. Lobaton has a tough spot batting in the 8 hole that pitchers can nibble more but in Dannys case he sees alot of good pitches and just not putting solid contact on with men on base.

      • Brookstoor - May 3, 2014 at 11:49 AM

        I completely agree, 128. We’re finally coaxing some real offensive production out of Espi. I don’t think MW would jeopardize that by trying to put him in the 2 hole and possibly change what ever new approach Danny is using. He still gets over aggressive with RISP and when we’re already ahead and he wants to join the RBI parade he’s just not good. Hopefully that’s the next part of his game he’s working on. Keep him in the 7th or 8th spot and let him produce there.

    • dcwx61 - May 3, 2014 at 10:37 AM

      Good stuff. Rendon is a rare hitter and could be the best we’ve seen in a Nats uniform..only time will tell

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 3, 2014 at 10:39 AM

        That’s the way to look at it. Consistency over the years. There’s a player you tie up now IMHO

  13. Candide - May 3, 2014 at 10:09 AM

    Someone clue me in here.

    Watch the beginning of this video. http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/mlb/benches-clear-after-denard-span-cliff-lee-exchange-words?ymd=20140502&content_id=74105650&vkey=news_mlb

    Right after Carp says, “Very respectable,” it looks to me like Denard was asking for time out; he raised his left hand and steps back.

    On the one hand, I would like to know why nobody has raised that point – why didn’t the ump grant time out? On the other hand, it seems odd that not a single person has questioned this.

    Am I missing something (“Yes, dummy, now shut up and sit down…”)?

    • nats128 - May 3, 2014 at 10:12 AM

      I think he was granted timeout before that and the ump doesn’t have to grant you timeout.

      • Candide - May 3, 2014 at 10:58 AM

        What, you only get one timeout per AB?

        I know the ump doesn’t HAVE to give you the timeout, but doesn’t that normally apply only if the pitcher is already in the act of throwing? Video doesn’t show either way.

      • therealjohnc - May 3, 2014 at 11:19 AM

        Apparently, based on last night, if you are Chase Utley you may call timeout even after the pitcher has begun his motion.

  14. nats128 - May 3, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    By the way, AJ Burnett is pitching tonight for the Phools and he has a history of nasty pitches. Not sure you want to get something started with him on the mound as the Nats cant afford to get anyone else hurt.

  15. Sec 3 My Sofa - May 3, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    “It was nothing like I wanted to go and fight him. Cause if I wanted to fight him, I could’ve got to him, easily. If I really wanted to. But that’s not what I wanted to do.”

    He’s a lover, not a fighter. But he’s also a fighter, so don’t get any ideas. He’s … The Most Interesting Span In The World.

    • Candide - May 3, 2014 at 10:47 AM

      +1 😆

    • unkyd59 - May 3, 2014 at 12:31 PM

      Heheh…

    • letswin3 - May 3, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      Best line of the week!!

  16. dcwx61 - May 3, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    Big week coming up with the return of Fister, Ramos and Hairston
    I guess Matheus, Leon and Souza or Walters go down ???
    Although someone mentioned the Nats may carry 3 catchers for a while

    http://www.sportsinjuryalert.com/2014/05/nationals-doug-fister-wilson-ramos.html#.U2UAAce7m3s

  17. Candide - May 3, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Thought: Phillies trying to see if they can intimidate Nats, especially the new manager?

    They have a certain history – see Hamels v. Harper, 2012.

    Now Lee and Ruiz?

    If the umps don’t issue a pregame warning to both teams, Tanner should put his very first pitch in the leadoff batter’s ribs, nip this in the bud.

    • Candide - May 3, 2014 at 10:54 AM

      To those who would argue Lee didn’t mean to come in like that, go back to the video and look at his big shti-eating grin right after the pitch. Doesn’t look too terribly upset with himself.

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