By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Not many 68-year-olds can find a way to look 30 years younger.
In the opinion of Detroit Tigers catcher Brayan Pena, manager Jim Leyland accomplished it in his three-act tirade Thursday after benches cleared when Tigers pitcher Luke Putkonen was ejected for throwing behind a Chicago White Sox hitter.
“Skipper was pretty hot,” Pena said with a smile. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ He looked like he was 35 years old because he really got pretty hot. He was arguing pretty hard, and I was like, ‘Wow – thanks not to mess with the skipper. He ain’t no joke!”
Leyland came out of the dugout multiple times and reamed out the umpires for ejecting his pitcher without any warning after Chicago ace Chris Sale had thrown at Prince Fielder’s head earlier in the game. It further incensed Leyland that Alexei Ramirez, the batter Putkonen almost clipped, remained in the game after he escalated the incident by charging the mound.
Detroit right fielder Torii Hunter said Leyland’s explosion was a divisionary tactic to get the attention off his players.
“Both teams kind of watched, like, ‘Is this guy going off or what?’” Hunter said. “I really appreciate that though. When you have a manager and he’s out there fighting for you like that and trying to – I know what he’s doing. He’s calming us down so we don’t get ejected. He’d rather take the fall than all our players.
“If the players go out there and something happens, Cabrera, Miggy, or myself get ejected, and we’re out two or three games, that hurts the team, so [that was] smart on Skip’s part.”
Tigers reliever Phil Coke, who has been with the team four seasons, said it was the best he has seen out of Leyland.
Leyland’s antics aside, Coke and designated hitter Victor Martinez both pointed out that the incident was the second time in as many weeks the Tigers have had a pitcher disciplined for what appeared to be retaliation after no warning was issued for a similar offense by an opposing pitcher.
Sale maintained that he did not mean to hit Fielder but said he understood Leyland’s reaction to the situation that unfolded later – all because of his pitch to Fielder.
“From the outside looking in, it doesn’t look good,” Sale said. “Even on the mound I was like, ‘Oh, that’s not good.’”
Leyland did not speak to the media at all after the game. Seasoned media members said it was the first time they could remember it happening.
In addition to questions about whether a warning should have been issued after Sale’s pitch, whether Putkonen should have been ejected, whether Ramirez should have been ejected and why this has happened multiple times to the Tigers recently, there were other inquiries reporters did not get to pursue.
Among those would be what happened to cause the first-place Tigers to lose the series to the last-place White Sox.
Needless to say, many are looking forward to hearing what Leyland has to say Friday.