Close shave leaves Youk furious
BOSTON—Roger Clemens will be nowhere near Fenway Park this weekend as he prepares for his 2007 debut Monday against the White Sox. But the Red Sox and Yankees didn’t need the premier brushback artist of this generation to create some beanball drama Friday.
Five hitters were plunked and Kevin Youkilis had to be restrained from going after Scott Proctor after the Yankees’ right-hander hit him in the shoulder and sent him sprawling to the dirt in the ninth inning of the Yankees’ 9-5 win in front of a sellout crowd of 36,785 at Fenway Park.
Proctor was ejected and the benches emptied, though no punches were thrown. A livid Youkilis screamed obscenities at Proctor and was accompanied to first base by Terry Francona, Alex Cora and Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, all of whom were trying to calm down Youkilis.
“When things like that happen, the last thing I want to have happen is Youkilis to end up doing something where he’s going to be penalized by the league,” Francona said. “I understand he was upset, the ball was pretty close to his head, but my responsibility is to keep him on the field and keep him in games.”
Asked what was said during the walk to first, Youkilis auditioned for a spot on a Las Vegas tourism ad. “What was said on the field stays on the field,” Youkilis said. “That’s it.”
Joe Torre said he thought Proctor’s plunking was unintentional—just like the four that preceded it. Mike Lowell was hit on the wrist by a Chien-Ming Wang pitch in the third inning and exited two innings later due to a bruise. Three Yankees were subsequently hit by pitches: Josh Phelps by Tim Wakefield in the fourth, Alex Rodriguez by Kyle Snyder later in the fourth and Robinson Cano by Javier Lopez in the ninth.
“I don’t think any of the hitting tonight was on purpose,” Torre said. “I think [Youkilis] was scared because the ball jumped up. But I firmly believe that any of the stuff tonight was not on purpose.
“But with the two teams involved, I am not going to fault [home plate umpire] Brian O’Nora for [ejecting Proctor].”
Youkilis and his teammates remained silent on whether or not they believed Proctor intentionally threw at him. “I really have no comment on that,” Doug Mirabelli said.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” Cora said.
Youkilis’ body language, though, smoldered: He didn’t make eye contact with reporters surrounding him, instead staring downward and continuing to dry his hands with a towel.
“You’re never happy when a ball’s coming at your head,” Youkilis said. “You guys ever have a ball coming at your head? Every guy’s going to have a reaction.”
Making the incident even more intriguing is Proctor’s history of retaliatory actions, his usage in a lopsided game and Torre’s own ejection in the fifth inning. Proctor was suspended four games for dusting the Mariners’ Yuniesky Betancourt with a high and inside fastball May 6—coincidentally, the day Clemens made his Papal return to the Yankees—after both benches had been warned following a hard slide into home by Phelps and a plunking of Phelps by the Mariners’ Jarrod Washburn.
The sight of Proctor entering a six-run game was curious as well. Proctor’s heavy workload is a running joke in baseball circles. In fact, when he was suspended, he said it was the only way he’d get some time off.
Proctor appeared in each of the Yankees’ last two games against the Blue Jays and in four of their previous six overall. He has appeared in 14 games over the last 30 days, tied for third-most in the AL, and 29 games overall, tied for second-most. He led the AL with 83 appearances last season and his 112 appearances since the start of 2006 are the most in baseball.
Torre, meanwhile, was tossed by third base umpire Jerry Crawford during a pitching change. The argument stemmed from Crawford calling Bobby Abreu out on an attempted steal of third when he appeared to be safe two batters earlier in a game the Yankees were winning 9-3.
Afterward, Torre told reporters the Yankees “…needed to be a little more fiery” and that he was pleased the team “…showed some fight.” It was the second game in a row the Yankees—who began the night tied for last place with the Devil Rays—displayed some unusual boldness. Rodriguez caused Blue Jays third baseman Howie Clark to drop a routine pop-up in the ninth inning of a 10-5 win Wednesday by yelling “HA!” as he ran by him.
Torre said he hoped any bad feelings generated between the teams Friday would not carryover to today. “These two clubs—you never know what’s going to happen, but I certainly hope not,” Torre said.
Still, it no doubt lends another wrinkle to what is suddenly a very interesting game between two teams separated by 12 ½ games in the AL East. Indeed, judging by the icy expressions on the faces of the players who dressed quickly in a rapidly emptied locker room, the Sox may have more on their mind today than simply avoiding their first three-game losing streak of the season.
“Nothing needs to be said that hasn’t already been said,” Youkilis said on a night when the Sox didn’t say much of anything. “It’s over and done with. Tomorrow’s another day.”
Yes. It certainly is.
Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at email@example.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-979-0979.