Fri Jul 29 04:01am EDT
Get along, you two.
In the heat of a particularly frustrating afternoon for the Detroit Tigers on Thursday, right-hander Brad Penny(notes) and catcher Victor Martinez(notes) squabbled with each other in plain sight in front of more than 30,000 fans at Comerica Park.
The Angels roughed up Penny for seven runs over 3 2/3 innings, his worst statistical outing with Detroit, in a 12-7 victory for Los Angeles. Perhaps the ugliest detail: home fans booing their own team in the fourth inning when Penny and Martinez shouted at each other with the Tigers on defense.
Though the teammates exchanged only words, along with some hostile body language, the argument went on long enough that pitching coach Jeff Jones emerged from the dugout to calm everyone down. He even had to lightly restrain Penny from getting in Martinez's face.
Over the long months of a season, teammates will argue with each other. It just doesn't happen, usually, between the mound and home plate in the middle of an at-bat.
Memo to Brad and Victor: You're supposed to act as a battery, not threaten each other with battery.
Penny later said the squabble stemmed from how Martinez was calling pitches with a runner on second base. Nothing more, no big deal. A penny for your thoughts, Victor?
"Next question," Martinez said. "Don't ask about that."
OK ... anybody have anything about the debt ceiling?
As the Tigers beat writers from MLB.com point out, Penny and Martinez had experienced positive results when working together. In eight starts with Martinez behind the plate, Penny's ERA was two runs lower than it has been in 13 starts with No. 1 Alex Avila(notes). And Penny has been effusive in praising Martinez, a backup at catcher at this point in his career, whom the Tigers signed mostly for his offensive abilities.
"It had nothing to do with pitch selection or anything like that," Penny said. "With a runner on second, I like to come set taking signs. That way the hitter can't look at second base and anything there. I've pitched my whole career that way, and he didn't want me to do it. I know there's no other way for me. I guess it's a habit. It's natural.
"I've done it my whole career. It's not that big of a deal. Me and Victor have been friends for a while now, and that happens when you're competing."
Though it shouldn't have happened in front of the world like that, Penny seemed over it after the game. But was Martinez over it? Judging by his reaction to being asked about it, nope.
If Penny's characterization of what happened is complete and accurate, then Martinez needs to shoulder most of the blame. The catcher is the captain. He's got to rein in the pitcher when he's acting like an angry bull who looks like Larry the Cable Guy. (Possible exception: whoever is catching Carlos Zambrano(notes). Z cannot be tamed.)
It's also understandable for Martinez to be upset with Penny for apparently calling him out. But if Martinez was doing something different than he usually does in calling signs, then it's easy to see why that would ruffle Penny.
If you're wondering where manager Jim Leyland was during all of this, he had been ejected for arguing with umpires about something else an inning earlier.
Who will catch Penny's next start? Will this regrettable moment have any lasting effect on the Tigers? Perhaps a positive effect? Martinez ain't talking, so the answers have to come from elsewhere.