By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Detroit Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez had to hit the deck Tuesday when New York Yankees reliever Esmil Rogers buzzed a fastball by his ear.
In the heat of the moment, Martinez believed Rogers intended to throw exactly where he did.
Martinez already had three hits in the game – a leadoff single in the second, an RBI single in the third and a double in the sixth – when he came to the plate against Rogers in the eighth inning.
“I talked about it with a bunch of the guys,” Martinez said before Wednesday’s game. “It just doesn’t look right in that situation. If that’s the case, then just anywhere but not the head. You go up there, and it gets scary.”
Martinez does not know for sure if the pitch was intentional – Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said he did not think so, and Rogers told Martinez the ball just got away from him – but either way the move aggravated Martinez, and he said his teammates told him his reaction was more than justified.
“Any time you do that, it’s just, I don’t know, it gets frustrating,” Martinez said. “It’s very easy to get agitated. A lot of the veteran guys said I was even a lot cooler than I should have been about it.
“They said, ‘Man, if someone throws at me like that, I would have made sure everybody knew that I was pissed,'” Martinez added with a laugh.
Neither designated hitter Victor Martinez nor outfielder Rajai Davis would comment on the pitch.
Traditionally, throwing at a player like Rogers did would elicit a response, but with increased awareness of the danger of concussions, Major League Baseball has tamped down on the retribution that for decades stood as an unwritten rule of the game. With the game and head injuries under heavier scrutiny, expectations of pitchers to retaliate in defense of teammates might not be as ironclad as they once were.
Then again, maybe they are.
“It depends on, mainly, the team – their team principles, their team bylaws that they stand by, whether they’re invisible or not, their standard,” Davis said. “This is the message they want to send, so I think that’s what it comes down to, mainly. It mainly depends on the team and what the manager feels and how the players feel.”
Davis did not talk about where the Tigers stand on that issue, but whether a Yankees batter gets plunked or targeted Wednesday might reveal the answer.