Tampa Bay Rays
Greinke injury has Rays staff talking about brawl ball
Alex Cobb said he knows what he would do if a batter charged him while he was on the mound. He will run and hide behind Jeremy Hellickson.
Hellickson laughed at that and added, “And we’re going to hide behind Farnsy.”
“Farnsy” is, of course, Kyle Farnsworth, the Rays reliever with a black belt in taekwondo and a baseball résumé that includes a pair of takedowns during bench-clearing brawls.
Cobb and Hellickson were kidding. Sort of.
The topic came up in the wake of the bench-clearing brawl earlier in the week between the Dodgers and Padres. Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin charged Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke after Greinke hit Quentin with a pitch. Both players lowered their shoulders at the point of impact, and Greinke left with a broken collarbone.
In hindsight, it wasn’t the smartest move by Greinke, but no one ever said smarts play a role when the dugouts empty.
“We talk about this often, and kind of in jest, but it’s really something to seriously consider: We ought to have something in spring training where we kind of enlighten pitchers on not necessarily defending themselves, maybe defend themselves, but to stay out of harm’s way until help can get there,” Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey said. “To have that kind of reaction, to lower your shoulder and meet this guy head on like you’re a linebacker is probably not the best of ideas.”
You can just picture the Rays pitchers on a back field next spring working on how to avoid a charging batter.
“I had no idea that is part of the daily planning,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon, who lets his coaches run spring training. “I think he was half-joking. Or maybe three-quarters joking. Seven-eighths.”
But with a pitching staff like this, especially the young starters, can you be too careful?
“If (Hick’s) got any ideas I’ll listen. I don’t know how you can teach that,” Cobb said. “There are so many different variables that can happen when they’re coming at you, you can’t practice all of them.”
No, Farnsworth said, it’s all reaction.
He would know, having speared Reds pitcher Paul Wilson to the grass during a 2003 brawl between the Cubs and Reds and taken down Royals pitcher Jeremy Affeldt during a 2005 donnybrook between the Tigers and Royals.
“You kind of just react to what the hitter’s going to do. Pretty much that’s it,” Farnsworth said. “You can think about and pre-plan, but in the heat of the moment you don’t know what’s going to happen and just react to the situation.”
Farnsworth said he reacted the only way he knows how to react: aggressively.
That’s what he did with Wilson, who charged the mound after nearly being struck by a pitch while attempting to bunt.
“He came at me, and I went at him and met him before he got to me,” Farnsworth said. “I’m not going to let someone come at me. I’m going to defend myself. Everyone is going to be different. That’s me. If someone comes at me I’m going to protect myself. I’m not going to run from anybody. We’ll go from there.”
Hickey has another idea.
“Basically, kind of retreat until somebody else can get into the middle of that,” Hickey said.
Wouldn’t that be viewed as kind of … um … wimpy in some circles?
“I think I’d rather look a little wimpy and live (to make my next start),” Hickey said. “I guarantee you, Zack Greinke wishes right now he had just back-pedaled until somebody got in between him (and Quentin), and the Dodgers do as well.”
That job normally belongs to the catcher, who is charged with charging after the charging hitter in an attempt to make an open-field tackle, or, at the very least, slow him down.
Should the catcher fail at that and should one of the corner infielders not get to the mound in time to pick off the charging batter, the pitcher is forced to make a decision.
Farnsworth, who has been on the bottom of two piles during the above-mentioned dustups and would really like to not be on the bottom of a third one, offered this: “I think the best thing for a pitcher to do is to stand your ground and wait for help to come, watch the hitter, see what he’s going to do, side-step him and brush him away. They’re coming right at you. It’s easy to side-step him and brush him away. It’s the easiest and safest thing to do, and then hope your catcher gets him before he gets to you.”