Benches empty after Ubaldo Jimenez plunks Troy Tulowitzki

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Troy Tulowitzki was taken to the hospital for precautionary X-rays on his left elbow, which came back negative, after being hit by Ubaldo Jimenez’s very first pitch of the game Sunday.

Jimenez made it clear immediately afterwards that he was sending his former teammate a message, pounding his chest after the pitch. Tulo started to take some steps toward the mound, causing the benches to clear. Both players were held back by teammates before matters could escalate.

Jimenez and Tulo had already had it out a bit in the media this month. Jimenez has made it clear he felt disrespected by the Rockies when he was shipped to Cleveland at the trade deadline last year. Tulowitzki indicated that Jimenez was a difficult teammate. CBSSports quoted him saying the following in a March 8 article:

You try to get a feel for a teammate, and we can’t get anything back. People ask, ‘Well, he’s your teammate, don’t you know what’s wrong with him?

We tried to ask him. And we couldn’t get anything in return.

Considering Jimenez’s history, one wonders why the Indians had him pitching today in the first place. He wasn’t ejected from the game, though he probably should have been. A five-game suspension is certainly warranted given his actions.

Update: Jimenez said after the outing that the pitch was unintentional and that his chest pounding was a response to Tulo’s words.

“The thing that got started was, he was calling me out (from the batters box). I mean, I’m a man. If somebody calls me out, I have to go. He was calling me chicken. He was calling me names,” Jimenez said.
The Denver Post’s Troy Renck also reports that the Rockies are expected to request that Jimenez be suspended.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.