CLEARWATER, Fla. – Andrew McCutchen spun out of the batter’s box, buzzed by a fastball from Jonathan Papelbon. Moments later, a Philadelphia hitter paid the price – he got drilled in the back.
Looks as though this feud isn’t going to simmer down anytime soon.
“There has been either a coincidence or numerous hit by pitches by the Pirates. It kind of works its way out there,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said after today’s 5-0 loss to Pittsburgh.
“Our pitchers will protect our hitters,” he said.
The Pennsylvania teams have played three times this spring – Pittsburgh pitchers have hit eight batters, Philadelphia has plunked four.
“There was something going on there,” plate umpire Tom Hallion said.
This latest trouble began brewing when Pittsburgh second baseman Neil Walker and Philadelphia outfielder John Mayberry Jr. both were hit in the third inning.
It turned downright testy in the fifth.
Papelbon relieved to begin the inning and retired the first two batters before squarely hitting Starling Marte. Walker followed with a single and Papelbon’s first pitch to McCutchen was a high-and-tight heater that forced the NL MVP to twist away.
McCutchen glared at Papelbon, stepped back in and hit his second single of the game.
When the Phillies came to bat in the bottom half, Pirates reliever Bryan Morris nailed leadoff man Cody Asche with his first pitch. Asche slung his bat aside and took his base.
Hallion turned to Sandberg and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, and the veteran umpire hollered the same thing to each of them: “Are you done now?”
Hurdle didn’t get too worked up.
“Maybe they’re trying to pitch inside,” he said. “There are a lot of things you work on in spring training.”
Baserunning. Cutoff plays. Defensive shifts. And maybe even some retaliation.
There was no further trouble. Walker homered in the seventh and the next Pirates batter, Josh Harrison, was nicked in the foot without incident.
“We’ve hit four, five of their guys, trying to keep them off the inside of the plate, and they’ve done the same thing,” Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure said.
The teams will see each other again this month. They play at the Pirates’ complex on March 22 and close the exhibition season with two games in Philadelphia.
Pirates: Adam Wilk pitched three innings, allowing two hits and striking out two. The 26-year-old lefty has permitted one earned run in 10 innings over five spring outings. Wilk pitched for Detroit from 2011-12 and played in Korea last year.
“He was very efficient again today,” Hurdle said.
Phillies: Sean O’Sullivan gave up two runs and four hits in four innings. The 26-year-old righty started the spring with two good outings, but has gotten hit the last two times out. He pitched for San Diego last year and has also played for the Royals and Angels.
Phillies lefty Cole Hamels threw a side session in the morning and was encouraged afterward. It was the second time he had thrown off a mound in five days, following an 11-day layoff when he complained of fatigue.
Last month, Hamels said he wouldn’t be able to make his second straight opening day start after entering camp behind schedule. Hamels’ offseason throwing program was delayed after he battled biceps tendinitis in November. He’s hoping to rejoin the rotation at some point in April.
“I was really thoroughly impressed with the way I’ve been feeling all week,” Hamels said. “I’ve really been able to bounce back really well. … My strength is there.”
Pirates: McCutchen also hit an RBI single, making him 14 for 25 (.560) this spring. … Marte doubled and scored twice.
Phillies: Jimmy Rollins, Domonic Brown and Ben Revere didn’t start. They played the previous night against Boston in Fort Myers, a 2½-hour drive each way.