Was it simply an accident, leftover hard feelings over his time in Colorado or “the most gutless act” Rockies Manager Jim Tracy has “seen in 35 years in the game?”
The first pitch from Cleveland Indians pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez drilled his former Rockies teammate Troy Tulowitzki smack on the elbow Sunday, triggering a bench-clearing standoff in the spring-training game in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Given that Commissioner Bud Selig was in the stands, Major League Baseball most likely will get to the bottom of things.
“You guys will have to talk to him and see if it was intentional or unintentional,” Tulowitzki said. “I didn't expect anything and the emotions took over. A couple of words were exchanged but nothing more than that.”
X-rays revealed no injury, but it’s not clear whether the All-Star shortstop, whose swollen elbow was wrapped after the game, would be ready for the opener.
“From my take, as soon as he hit me it just seemed like he wanted a little more. That's when the confrontation started,” Tulowitzki said. “I definitely wasn't happy about being hit. I don't think you ever are ... so it was back and forth. Not saying it was just him or me.”
Tracy was far more emotional in a profanity-laced tirade.
“It's the most gutless act I have seen in 35 years of professional baseball” Tracy told the Denver Post. “I have lost all respect for him. He should be suspended. I am going to be very disappointed if he doesn’t get suspended. Are you kidding me? Five days before Opening Day and you are going to take a potshot like that? I have lost all respect for him.”
There have been issues since the Rockies gave Tulowitzki, and not Jimenez, a contract extension. Earlier in spring training, Jimenez said playing for the Indians was “heaven” compared with playing in Colorado. But residual unhappiness with the Rockies, detailed recently by the Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla, wasn’t behind the plunking, Jimenez said.
“I was surprised [when Tulowitzki moved toward him],” Jimenez told the Plain Dealer. “I've never had any problem with him. He was calling me things.
“I'm a man. I try to relax all the time, but if someone calls me out, I've got to go. He was calling me names. He was calling me a chicken. Well, not chicken, but another really aggressive word that I can't say right now.
“I don't look for trouble, but if you call me out, I'll be there.”
Jimenez was bothered last season by injuries to a finger on his throwing hand and resented suggestions that he came to spring training unprepared to throw, Kiszla writes.
Among others, Tulowitzki questioned his commitment. “If someone doesn't want to be here," Tulowitzki told the Denver Post, "we always say, 'Please, go up to the manager and tell him you want to leave or that you don't think this is the best place for you.’ That was kind of the case with him.”
Jimenez admitted that “Last year was a roller coaster because I didn't know what I had before I pitched a game. I didn't know what I had physically. I know I wasn't 100 percent. Sometimes I felt good, sometimes I didn't. So it was hard,” Jimenez told Kiszla in late March.
“There were too many things last year. There were people saying that I probably wasn't ready because of the contract. ... But I know what I did. I know how hard I worked to get ready every single day.”
On Sunday, Tracy flashed back to Jimenez’s comments to Kiszla.
“Knowing what I know, knowing what took place last year, and where this team was at going into the second month of the season and doing what we did [in April] and he was nowhere to be found. I have lost all respect for him,” Tracy said.
“Look at where we were last spring. At what took place after the 2010 season and what we did in the beginning of the 2011 season without him. Waiting for him. Taking bullets for him. All the different things. And to pull that [expletive]. As I have said, the most unprofessional thing I have ever seen since I started in professional baseball.”