Hot times and hot tempers … ain't it great?

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As we move closer to playoff stretch run territory, there seems to be an increase in intensity (some might call it testiness) in games.

In the last week, we’ve seen a heated dialogue between Dustin Pedroia and Jorge Posada after Pedroia was drilled by a pitch, Tony La Russa and Ozzie Guillen both lamenting their players being plunked, and a beanball battle that escalated into a brawl between the Red Sox and Tigers.

It all makes for some entertaining baseball, ramping up some rivalries and perhaps creating new ones.

But on Wednesday, we had a puzzling episode between the Dodgers and Giants. San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval, while checking his swing, appeared to be grazed on the back elbow by a pitch from James McDonald. The pitch wasn’t that close to Sandoval’s torso, and wouldn’t have hit him had he not dropped his elbow. But he acted as if McDonald was head-hunting, yelling and pointing at the pitcher, starting a bench-clearing incident that resulted in, well, nothing.

The kicker? The umps ruled the pitch didn’t even hit Sandoval, and the at-bat continued awkwardly before ending in a walk.

After the game, Giants catcher Bengie Molina wrote about the game in his blog, sounding a bit puzzled by the whole thing.

Pablo thought McDonald was intentionally trying to hit him, which is a judgment call on his part. Maybe he and McDonald have a history in the minor leagues or something. I don’t know. But you always back up your teammate, no matter what.

Translation? Sandoval got a little crazy. That’ll happen in an intense series involving rivals, especially when both teams have playoff aspirations. Plus, Sandoval just turned 23 on Tuesday, so he’s young. But I’m guessing he’ll get some instruction from veteran teammates on when it’s appropriate to act out, and how to do so.

Our own Bert Blyleven, who played 22 seasons in the bigs and is 13th on the all-time hit batters list, will write about this very topic later this week. So stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, be cool people. Unless, of course, you’ve been disrespected, then you might have to throw your helmet.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.