On running out of pitchers in the fall league and Don Mattingly

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Last week I passed along an MLB.com story about Don Mattingly running out of pitchers while managing in the Arizona Fall League, causing the game to be stopped after seven innings.

Mattingly taking over as the Dodgers’ manager has been met with a lot of scrutiny, in part because he’s never managed before and in part because he committed several gaffes while subbing for Joe Torre in the past.

He’s participating in the AFL to gain some managerial experience before the games actually mean something, and so his running out of pitchers while there seemed plenty newsworthy (particularly since MLB.com ran a relatively lengthy story about it).

However, quite a few Dodgers fans have chimed in to say that the AFL incident is meaningless and covering it only serves to flame the “Mattingly is overmatched as a manager” fire. I don’t necessarily agree, but I’ll let Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts state his case:

As someone who wishes the next Dodger manager had more experience, I nevertheless found this to be completely unremarkable. Some people have been using it to launch more snark at Mattingly, but that snark betrays a lack of understanding of what the AFL is–a series of games designed to provide a limited number of players with practice in a (pseudo-)competitive setting.

The math is simple: Mattingly was given five pitchers to work with Thursday (two others were injured), and was expected to get them all in the game while adhering to strict pitch-count limits. Over the first six innings he used three hurlers, none of whom pitched all that well, leaving him with two for the final three.

The real trouble began with Dodger prospect Steven Ames, a 17th-round pick in 2009, couldn’t retire any of the seven batters he faced in the seventh inning. The next pitcher, Marlins prospect Steve Cishek, fared little better, retiring only two of the next seven batters, using 36 pitches in the process.  That forced Mattingly to use a sixth pitcher, Braves prospect Cory Gearrin, who was supposed to pitch today, in order to complete the seventh inning Thursday.

Weisman also quotes Mattingly as saying, basically, “My hands were tied and I’d do the same thing again.”

I don’t doubt that’s true, nor do I doubt that the whole thing is ultimately meaningless, but that doesn’t preclude it from being newsworthy given the interest in all things Mattingly-as-manager. With that said, many Dodgers fans are already tired of the topic, so I don’t blame them for pushing back at guys like me who bring it up. Or as Weisman put it: “Save the grievances about Mattingly for when they actually matter.”

Marlins, Giants get into heated beanball war

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You may have heard that Giants closer Hunter Strickland broke his hand punching a door in frustration after Monday night’s subpar performance. He’ll miss six to eight weeks as a result. Strickland came in to protect a 4-2 lead but ended up giving up three runs. The tying run was knocked in by Lewis Brinson on a single to right field. Brinson moved to third base on a go-ahead single by Miguel Rojas, which prompted manager Bruce Bochy to take Strickland out of the game.

On his way to the dugout, Strickland started chirping at Brinson. Much like Bryce Harper and Strickland, Brinson and Strickland have a bit of a history. Last Thursday, Brinson handed Strickland a blown save with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. Brinson was happy to help his team tie the game, pumping his fast and saying, “Let’s go” at no one in particular. That rubbed Strickland the wrong way. Everything seems to rub Strickland the wrong way.

During Tuesday night’s game, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez threw at Brinson with the first pitch, a 92 MPH fastball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher issued warnings to both benches. Manager Don Mattingly came out to argue, suggesting that his team hadn’t done anything wrong so it was unfair to essentially take the inside part of the plate away from his pitchers. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly could be seen saying, “You’re next” to catcher Buster Posey.

The Giants scored twice in the bottom of the second against Dan Straily to extend their lead to 3-0. Posey came to the plate with a runner on first base and one out. Straily hit Posey with a 91 MPH fastball on the first pitch, prompting ejections of both Straily and Mattingly. Posey was hit on the arm. If the pitch had come in a bit lower and hit Posey on the wrist or hand, Posey might have had to go on the disabled list for a couple months. Or if the pitch had hit Posey a couple of inches higher, in the head, then who knows what would have happened.

Things calmed down from there, thankfully. The two clubs have one more game against each other in San Francisco on Wednesday and that will be the final time they meet this season. If anything further is going to happen — and hopefully, nothing happens — then it will come tomorrow.

Straily will almost certainly be facing a suspension and a fine, as will Mattingly. It’s less clear if Rodriguez and/or Bochy will be reprimanded for throwing at Brinson, even though it was fairly obvious the pitch was intentional. Regardless, the punishments amount to just one missed start for the pitchers, which isn’t nearly enough of a detriment to deter beanball wars.