Yes. "It's just Spring Training" That's what Yankee manager Joe Girardi said after Elliot Johnson ran over catcher Francisco Cervelli. Apparently playing hard is uncalled for in Spring Training. "It's just disheartening" and "I just don't understand" were also things spurting from Girardi's mouth. That all seemed to come crashing down on him in the next game between his New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays.
It was in the very first inning that you could tell this wasn't going to be a normal spring game. This was because Yankee pitcher Heath Phillips threw a ball that hit highly regarded Rays prospect Evan Longoria on the front of his jersey. Now given the situation (two on-two out) maybe that wasn't meant intentionally. Hard to tell, but I'll let that one go. The next inning was a little different. There was no question whether it was intentional or not. Unless of course you're Shelly Duncan.
Duncan slid hard into second base spikes up. He was clearly out by 5 feet or more and yet he took on the smallest player on the field with his spikes dangerously close to the groin. As it was Duncan left a nasty cut on Akinori Iwamora's leg and a sour taste in Jonny Gomes' mouth. As soon as it happened Gomes sprinted in from right to tackle the Yankees first baseman. "He tried to injure our player and I had to let him know how I felt about that," stated an irritated Gomes.
The play led to a bench-clearing brawl resulting in three Yankees and one Ray being ejected. Now where would the players get that kind of play from? Well after Duncan it was two Yankee coaches who were ejected. That is really sad. What kind of example is a coach setting when they are ejected in a brawl, especially with all the young players on hand watching?
As if the whole thing wasn't bad enough not only did Duncan open his mouth to say things like "there was no intention to hurt in my mind" or "there were no spikes up in my mind," but Girardi had to again pipe in and say that it was a "non-issue" and "there's going to be a difference of opinion." He went as far as to defend his player going into a slide spikes up after being so mad about a clean collision at the plate.
Maybe the Rays are playing hard in Spring Training, but the Yankees are playing dirty.