Notes: Starters have rough go of it
Tigers unhappy with Boston's Beckett after Ordonez hit
LAKELAND, Fla. -- It was a rough Saturday for starting pitchers to keep their control at Joker Marchant Stadium. By the time Justin Verlander and Josh Beckett were both out, it was tough to keep the game under control.
Both Beckett and Verlander ended up with performances they'd rather forget. But while Verlander's mistakes ended up in the strike zone, Beckett's miscues made a mark. By the time the Tigers answered, closer Todd Jones and manager Jim Leyland were ejected, Leyland was seemingly having words with Red Sox third-base coach DeMarlo Hale, and both benches had cleared.
It started with a first-inning Beckett fastball that hit Sheffield in the ribs, prompting Sheffield to stare out at him.
"He kept telling the umpire the ball hit the bat," Sheffield said. "I told him the ball didn't hit the bat. It hit me in the ribs. The ball didn't come close to my bat."
Beckett gave up three runs in the inning, two of them on a Magglio Ordonez single following the pitch that hit Sheffield. Ordonez came up to the plate in the third with two runners on. Beckett lost control of a curveball that hit Ordonez in his head, knocking him immediately to the ground.
Ordonez left the game and was taken to nearby Watson Clinic for diagnostic tests, which came back negative. He was listed with a left ear contusion and returned to the clubhouse around game's end with a wrap around his head. He'll miss at least Sunday's split-squad games as a precaution.
Another Beckett pitch came up and inside around chin level to Brandon Inge in the fourth inning, hitting his bat just above his fingers. It was Beckett's last inning, but it wasn't the end of the inside pitches. Jones entered in the fifth, retired Jason Varitek, then threw back-to-back inside pitches to J.D. Drew. The final one went behind Drew, prompting home-plate umpire Larry Vanover to eject Jones without a warning.
As manager Jim Leyland went to the mound to replace his pitcher, Hale was yelling, and Leyland seemingly exchanged words. That heated up the dugouts, which emptied as players walked out towards the mound and started having words. No punches were thrown, but Leyland was ejected.
Neither Jones nor Leyland wanted to comment. Beckett suggested he essentially hit one batter.
"[Sheffield] was a foul ball, and I hit a guy with a curveball," Beckett said. "If you look at the situations when it happened -- two outs, nobody on, do you think I'm going to hit Inge on purpose? Sheffield was two guys on, one out. Would I hit him on purpose? It's just baseball."
Nobody on the Tigers side believed he hit anyone on purpose, but both Sheffield and Inge took issue with him throwing inside.
"We know Magglio got hit with a curveball," Sheffield said. "Obviously you can't try to hit somebody with a curveball. But the fact of the matter is you hit key guys in the lineup in RBI situations, and you hit a couple guys in Spring Training, people are going to get [ticked] off. And that's all skip was saying, too. You're going to get [ticked] off, regardless of if you try to [hit people] or not. Go to something else. Pitch away if you don't have control."
The trouble with Beckett pitching inside, Inge said, is that his curveball can start out well inside on a right-handed hitter before it breaks over the strike zone. Because of that, hitters will wait longer than normal to watch any of his pitches before ducking away if it's close.
"He can pitch in all he wants," Inge said. "But you know what? If you're going to throw it up and in, you'd better control it."
As for what ensued, Inge was frank.
"If you're going to send a point like that," Inge said of Beckett, "all right, but you're not just going to get away with it. You can't just get away with stuff like that. This is baseball, even if it's Spring Training."
It's unclear what will happen to Jones. The Tigers have had suspensions come out of Spring Training incidents before. Pitcher Nate Cornejo and then-manager Alan Trammell received regular-season suspensions in 2004 stemming from a Spring Training incident in which Cornejo hit Philadelphia's Ricky Ledee after a warning had been issued.
The Tigers and Red Sox don't face each other again in Spring Training. They'll meet again in mid-May for a four-game series at Fenway Park, but Inge doesn't expect any simmering issues. Red Sox reliever Travis Hughes hit Chris Shelton with a pitch in the eighth inning, but neither tension nor ejections came out of it.
"I think both sides made their point," Inge said. "It's water under the bridge."
Speaking of control struggles: Verlander said he was trying to work on his mechanics Saturday and kept falling behind batters, forcing him to challenge hitters with fastballs. Eric Hinske hit one of them deep to left on a 2-2 pitch for a first-inning grand slam following back-to-back walks to Drew and Wily Mo Pena. Later, Verlander fell behind on a 3-0 count to Drew, who hit a 3-2 pitch to double in another run after Verlander kept throwing him fastballs.
"It bothers me, no doubt," Verlander said. "But it's Spring Training and I'm working on stuff. If I'm not throwing my fastball for strikes, then I'm throwing way too many fastballs. And if you get behind in the count, then I'm throwing fastballs to get back even. ... If I'm getting ahead in the count, who knows what happens?"
Said Leyland: "He looked to me like today was the first day that they were trying out the radar gun, and he wanted to see how hard he can throw it."
Monroe update: Craig Monroe calls it jumper's knee, but he says he tweaked it well before he tried to climb the fence in Port St. Lucie.
A doctor's visit Saturday morning suggested nothing worse than the original diagnosis on Monroe, who left Friday's game against the Mets in the first inning. The medical terminology for his left knee injury is patellar tendinitis, a condition more common in basketball than baseball.
"I've had that as far back as I can remember playing sports," Monroe said Saturday. "Yesterday was the first time I've had that much pain in it."
Monroe came up limping after he tried to climb the left-field fence at Tradition Field, thinking he might have a play on what ended up being a Carlos Beltran home run. Replays showed a tear in the billboard hung on the fence where the spikes of his right shoe would've caught. However, Monroe said the pain was in his left knee, which he felt when he turned and accelerated back for the ball.
Monroe didn't dress for Saturday's game, and he already had Sunday as his scheduled off-day for the spring. Leyland hopes to have him available for Monday's game against the Devil Rays in St. Petersburg.
More injury updates: Ryan Raburn remains unsure how he injured his left ankle Friday against the Mets, but it was sore enough Saturday to keep him out of action.
"I just know I hit that [outfield] wall," Raburn said, "and then a couple minutes later, my ankle just started killing me. I don't know where or how I hit it. I guess I just jammed it into the wall. That's about all I know. I was a little stunned that I hurt it."
Meanwhile, Marcus Thames remained out as he tries to work through inflammation in his right knee. He did some on-field work at first base. Neither his nor Raburn's injury is expected to be lengthy.
Left-handed compliment: Lost amidst all the inside pitches Saturday were two more scoreless innings of relief from lefty Edward Campusano, whose case for the last spot in the bullpen seems to be building.
Campusano walked one and struck out two in his hitless performance. He has yielded one hit and three walks in five innings over three appearances this spring.
"We continue to look," Leyland said. "I thought he threw the ball good."
Coming up: The Tigers have their first split-squad day of the spring on Sunday, sending Sheffield, Ordonez, Curtis Granderson and others to Clearwater with starter Chad Durbin to face the Phillies while Mike Maroth, Ivan Rodriguez, Sean Casey and others stay in Lakeland to take on the Mets. Both games start at 1:05 p.m. ET.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.