03/09/08 1:20 PM ET
Rays' Zimmer weighs in on collision
Veteran baseball man discouraged by Girardi's comments
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
On Saturday afternoon, Yankees manager Joe Girardi criticized the Rays for a violent home-plate collision that fractured prospect Francisco Cervelli's right wrist. The play occurred in the Rays' 4-1 victory at Legends Field when Elliot Johnson tried to score on a Willy Aybar double to left field. Johnson lowered his shoulder and tried to jar the ball loose from Cervelli, who was guarding the plate as a relay throw came in.
Cervelli held on to record the out, the second of the inning, but he had to leave the game after being attended to on the field. Cervelli was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, Fla., for X-rays, and the Yankees said his wrist would be casted on Saturday night.
"I think it's uncalled for," Girardi said. "It's Spring Training. You get people hurt, and that's what we've got -- we've got Cervelli hurt. I know they had an incident four or five days ago. I'm all for playing hard, but I don't think it's the time when you run over a catcher in Spring Training."
Zimmer, a longtime bench coach with the Yankees under Joe Torre, read stories about the play Sunday morning and had one comment about what Girardi had to say.
"It stunk," Zimmer said. "Somebody said on the bench when it happened that Girardi looked like he was angry. Now I took it that he was angry because his man got hurt -- not because anybody did anything wrong. That's the way I took it, knowing Girardi. And somebody on the bench said he thought Girardi was mad because he bowled him over. I said, 'No, I don't think so. That's not Girardi.'
"Then when I pick up the paper this morning, I was dumbfounded. [Cervelli] blocked the plate. What happens if our man slides in with the plate being blocked and breaks his leg? ... I am surprised the way Girardi said what he did. The plate was blocked, and our guy bowled him over. That's the way to play the game. I mean, I'm talking about a guy who is like a son to me. But I can't believe he went after it the way he did, because that's not Joe Girardi -- and being a catcher on top of that."
Cervelli, who played last year at Class A Tampa, said of the play: "It's OK. It's part of the game. Maybe [it was] adrenaline or something like that."
Rays manager Joe Maddon stuck by his original stance on the play, saying it was a hard-nosed play, the right way to play baseball and he was sorry Cervelli was hurt.
"Just like I said yesterday, it was a good hard baseball play, and we have to play the game one way all the time," Maddon said. "That's the way we do things. It's really unfortunate that that kid got hurt, because I read [Cervelli's] comments and thought, 'I'd love to have him on my team at some time.' ... Nobody wants to hurt anybody under those circumstances. That was not the point. But that was a great comment from their player, and I really respect him for that."
Like Zimmer, Maddon said he was surprised at Girardi's comments.
"I answered it the way I wanted to answer it, and I just want to let it sit right there. This does not deserve any legs," Maddon said. "It was an issue that occurred yesterday in a game -- it was a hard baseball play. The issue was whether you should do that in a Spring Training or not. So it's a philosophical difference."
Would Maddon like to discuss what happened with Girardi at some point?
"Honestly, I really haven't even thought about that -- if he would like," Maddon said. "I like the guy. I like Joe. I've always liked Joe. If he'd like to have a conversation, I like to talk about politics. I can talk about global warming. I'm good with a lot of different topics on a daily basis. I like iTunes. I've downloaded some things off iTunes. I like different restaurants. I like red wine. I have a lot of different areas I can go conversationally."
Johnson seemed amazed by all the attention the play has garnered.
Johnson was sorry Cervelli was injured: "I wasn't trying to hurt anybody. If I'm safe on the play and nobody gets hurt, it's no big deal."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.