Whether the Orioles’ latest dustup with Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista on Tuesday night at the Rogers Centre galvanizes the club will remain to be seen, but the emotion inside the clubhouse following the team’s 13-6 loss to Toronto was still raw.
The Blue Jays had the game well in hand in the seventh inning when Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia, a 22-year-old rookie making the fourth appearance of his major league career in a mop-up role, threw a 94-mph fastball that tailed behind Bautista.
Bautista glared at the mound. Three pitches later, he sent a 95-mph fastball from Garcia over the left-field fence. As he watched the ball land, Bautista took three slow steps out of the batter’s box before flipping his bat and starting a slow stroll around the bases. He glared into the Orioles dugout after touching home plate.
The Orioles know Bautista’s theatrics all too well, and this time, the way he showed up Garcia -- a high-upside but inexperienced pitcher who hadn’t pitched above low-A ball before making the Opening Day roster -- drew the Orioles’ ire.
As Bautista rounded the bases, even-tempered second baseman Ryan Flaherty pointed at him. “I just told him it was wrong and just to run the bases,” Flaherty said. “He is obviously one of the game’s best players and there’s a right and wrong way to play this game. That’s not the right way.”
Centerfielder Adam Jones then jawed at Bautista as Jones ran off the field between innings. And Bautista, taking his position in right field, yelled back at Jones and the two engaged in an obsenity-laced verbal tirade as the entire Orioles team took to the top step of the visiting dugout.
“That was just uncalled for,” Jones said after the game. “I don’t want to cuss, but it was just uncalled for. I’m not going to let nobody show up my teammates in a situation like that when a guy is definitely not trying to hurt somebody. … You’ve got to look at the situation. You’ve got a 22-year-old guy, a Rule 5, he was [riding] on buses last year. He’s more nervous facing him than the other way around. The last thing he wants to do is hurt somebody, especially hit somebody shoulders or higher. Come on. The last thing you want to do is that.”
After the game, Bautista offered no apologies for the display.
“I’m an emotional player, I play with a lot of passion,” Bautista said. “You throw at me, I’m not going to forget. If I get you right after, then I’m going to enjoy it. And I did. I’ve got no regrets about it.”
Jones, the team’s franchise player and vocal leader, said he took it personally that Bautista showed up Garcia.
“This is my team, man,” Jones added. “I’m not going to let nobody come here and say anything to nobody on this team. It’s just not going to work. You’re not going to sit there and pimp me. You pimp the pitcher, you’re pimping me too. He’s hit home runs. I’ve hit home runs against them and I’ve never pimped one like he did today. I’ve been hit by them many times and I’ve never said anything. I just went to first. I see his sentiments were different, so OK.”
Asked about Jones, Bautista responded by saying, “I could care less what Adam Jones is saying.”
The Orioles didn’t want to use Garcia in that instance, but were forced to after starter Bud Norris lasted just 2 1/3 innings, his shortest start in nearly three years.
This game was one of the Orioles’ worst over the season's first 14 games. Norris was tagged for nine runs, tying a career high. All three of the batters he walked scored, including two in a six-run second inning that also saw the Orioles commit two costly errors.
Maybe part of the frustration came because the Orioles were getting beaten badly, but the club's beef with Bautista has a deep history. He homered off Orioles reliever Darren O’Day on April 12 in Baltimore after he took exception to a pitch thrown by O’Day that was high and tight. There have been three previous tense encounters between Bautista and O'Day dating back to 2013.
“You’d just like to see him run around the bases,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I know the reality of what went on. You understand what it looks like. We’re going to take the high ground. We’re not trying to throw at anyone. But I understand [Toronto manager John Gibbons] and I understand him thinking what it might look like. But if you knew, the kid is just trying to throw [a strike]. It’s an emotional game played by people who care. What are you going to do. You’d just like to see people react like it’s not the first time they hit a home run.”
But Bautista told reporters after the game that the pitch was no coincidence. He pointed out how the Orioles were upset last year when Blue Jays rookie Marcus Stroman nearly hit catcher Caleb Joseph, even though that pitch was near Joseph’s head and came after shortstop Jose Reyes complained that Joseph stepped on his hand on a play at the plate.
“They were pointing at the fact this kid who threw the ball behind me today is a rookie,” he said. “Stroman was a rookie last year, they didn’t seem to have a problem [criticizing him]. It wasn’t OK for them even though Stroman was a rookie last year. Now that’s their defense, because this kid is a rookie?
Then Bautista took a jab at Showalter and the Orioles pitching.
“I think it’s all pretty well planned out and premeditated, and I think they hide behind the way their manager acts and conducts himself on the field,” Bautista said. “They’re going to continue to keep doing that until something comes down from MLB. … For a team that complains and whines so much about when their guys get pitched inside, they should manage their pitching a little bit better.”
Garcia, who one of three relievers who needed to account for 5 2/3 innings following Norris' short start, said he was just trying to pitch Bautista inside. “I have no reason to hit the guy,” he said. “I really didn’t think anything about it right away and then I kind of saw his reaction and that’s when it all started.”
Joseph, who was nearly hit in the head by Stroman last year, said it was unfortunate that Bautista’s showmanship will be lauded.
“There’s hundreds of thousands of kids that are growing up playing baseball or softball and they’re going to watch that on TV tonight and think that’s the way to do it,” Joseph said. “That’s unfortunate. [Garcia's] a young guy. He’s inexperienced. He was in A ball last year. I think it would be interesting to see when the last time he pitched back-to-back days was. He was a starter. There’s just no reason for us to go after him there. It’s just unfortunate that kids are going to see that on TV and think that’s OK.”