PITTSBURGH – Clint Hurdle had to find a new spot to watch Friday’s Mets-Pirates game at PNC Park.
While relievers Keone Kela and Kyle Crick, and third baseman José Osuna appealed their suspensions from Tuesday’s did-you-see-that brawl with the Cincinnati Reds, and thus were still on the active roster, Hurdle began his two-game suspension.
Hurdle had to leave his office at PNC Park by roughly 6:45 p.m., and watched his team’s 8-4 win from one of the owner’s suites.
“Half work day is I guess what it’s called,” Hurdle joked.
That brawl served as another low point for a Pirates team that is just 4-16 in the second half, falling completely out of contention for the wild card.
The world saw Kela throw what MLB deemed an intentional pitch near the head of Reds utility player Derek Dietrich and reliever Amir Garrett fully ignited the brawl by charging the Pirates dugout later in the game.
Eight individuals, four from both sides, received suspensions.
That melee potentially could have the power to either bring a reeling team together or possibly send them even further into the abyss.
Hurdle believes it will be the former.
“The vibe in the clubhouse, sometimes you don’t know what adversity can bring and what kind of connection it can bring and what kind of cohesion it can bring. Most of those worries, they’re going to be external rather than internal,” Hurdle said. “The people here, they know what they go through, they know what they prepare for, and they know what they’re talking about here and what the focus is. I don’t have any concerns of it have a negative hangover or lingering effect. Zero.”
The Pirates backed up Hurdle’s words Friday by playing one of their best games of the season against a team that swept them last week. Maybe it was just for one night, but they did not seem to have their thoughts elsewhere.
Crick and Osuna both contributed despite having looming suspensions.
Osuna ripped an RBI single off Steven Matz in the Pirates’ five-run fourth inning put them ahead, 5-3. Crick threw a scoreless eighth inning.
Those two, along with Kela, will continue to wait until MLB makes their ruling. Crick received the lightest ban of the trio with just a three-game suspension.
Kela, who received the stiffest suspension with a 10-game ban, had no regrets for his actions nor for owning up to his pitch after the game. Kela acknowledged his honesty probably hurt him, but he also did not hit Dietrich with the pitch .
He hopes his appeal can be cut down, noting how other pitchers have not received such stiff fines for deliberate pitches.
“Me being honest, the truth will get you crucified. I’m not going to sit here and ball-face lie. The game sees enough of that. [Media members] have asked guys on different occasions what happened with happened with a certain pitch and they’ll go ahead and say it slipped,” Kela said before the game. “We’re professionals.”
Kela believe he did the right thing in standing up for his teammates with some bad blood dating back to earlier in the year when Dietrich admired a long homer.
“My intentions are pure and if I wanted to hit the man, I would have. I didn’t, and I went forth and struck him out on four pitches. I thought that was the most professional way for me to handle it. I got my guys’ backs,” Kela said. “That’s the culture I want to be here and permeate through the bullpen is we’re not going to sit here and let anyone to disrespect us in any form or fashion. People can say the pitch was uncalled for, but at the end of the day, didn’t hit him.”
Osuna, who’s five-game suspension came as a surprise to some, echoed Kela’s sentiments. MLB disciplined him for “aggressiveness” and “inappropriate actions.”
“What I did was defend my team,” Osuna said through a translator before the start of this three-game series. “What I saw was a guy bum-rushing my teammates, and my nature, the way I am, my mentality and my heart to these guys I’m going to defend them and stand up for them. Not the first time, won’t be the last time.”
Hurdle spent plenty of time Friday contacting the Commissioners’ office and noted how MLB officials want to get the focus back on the game.
He recognizes that his team has developed a reputation for pitching inside and hitting batters — they entered the night tied for fourth with 52 hit batsmen — but disagree that there is any dirty tactics being applied.
He wants his team to stay aggressive.
“The industry in and of itself is elevating the baseball and it’s encouraged to elevate the baseball. A lot of times we don’t have the time to command the baseball as long as we’re elevating it,” Hurdle said. “I’m in complete agreement. We don’t teach people to throw up and in. We don’t throw at people’s heads. When that happens, yes, I’m accountable and responsible. I’m not this guy behind the curtain pulling all these levers. Men go out and pitch.”
He added: “I can’t control what other people’s perceptions are. What works for us is to be aggressive to both sides of the plate.”
As Hurdle watched the game from the suites, bench coach Tom Prince took over for the night and handled the postgame press conference.
Prince handled some duties in the clubhouse after the game, while still wearing his uniform, as Hurdle exited wearing a gray golf shirt.
Hurdle will have to wait until Sunday to reclaim his spot, and he may not be able to call upon Crick, Osuna and Kela that day.
“Coaching staff did a great job, we talked like Clint was there,” Prince said. “Difference was I just walked out to the mound once. That’s really it.”
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