There’s been a lot of buzz around the clubhouse about the bench-clearing brawl in Thursday’s Padres vs. Dodgers game at San Diego’s Petco Park.
Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin charged the mound and tackled Dodgers starter Zack Greinke after getting hit by a pitch. Greinke was injured during the melee, suffering a fractured left collarbone. Greinke is out until June. No suspensions have been announced.
Manager Davey Johnson said hitting a batter was never a part of his direction, but he did think pitching inside was an important strategy to gain control of the plate.
“I have never managed a team where I have ever even mentioned hitting anybody or throwing at anybody,” Johnson said. “I have encouraged good pitchers you have to come inside occasionally. You can’t constantly just go away.
“There is a fine line in there between moving a guy back off the plate or head-hunting. Up and in and down and away has always been in baseball. If you can get it up and in and down and away in the strike zone, you can get the guy out.”
Johnson said retaliation is more common in the senior circuit because the pitcher has to hit.
“It polices itself in the National League, I would think a lot better than in the American League,” he said.
Johnson also remembers the philosophy of Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson.
“I asked him one time, ‘If you don’t know this hitter, how do you pitch him?’ He said, ‘I would throw him inside. If he can’t hit that one, I don’t even worry about him. Because I know I can get him out away,’ ” Johnson recalled.
Johnson believes his Nationals could take some of that advice.
“Even with this young staff, with such good stuff, we haven’t pitched inside enough,” Johnson said. “That is part of the learning experience.”
But inside pitching was a crucial part of backing hitters off the plate. As Johnson said, they really went inside, up or down, and that would jostle the hitter. It is a far different strategy today. And hitters get more upset.
“We would get flipped (back in the day),” Johnson said. “You had to learn how to duck. Now you can hit a guy on the thigh, and he is liable to charge the mound. The game has changed a little bit.”
As for Quentin, he is likely headed to a healthy suspension at a time when the Padres are off to a horrendous 2-7 start. Nationals reliever Drew Storen remembers Quentin from his days at Stanford.
“I know ‘los,” Storen said. “He plays with passion. I don’t know the history between them. I don’t know what was said. But the guy plays the game hard. It’s unfortunate to see the results of it, but like I said, I know ‘los and I know he plays the game with passion.
“That’s pretty much all I can tell you about that, because I’m like you guys, I don’t know really what went down. It’s easy to see on TV and make your judgments on that, but you don’t know the full history.
“You can look at the stats of it, but there’s a lot of little things that go into this, the code of the game. Things happen. But like I said, guys (are) playing the game hard on both ends. Greinke didn’t back down, so give him props, because ‘los is a big guy.”