Price hits Youkilis, Rays pay price

June, 17, 2011
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- If it looks like revenge and smells like revenge and the home-plate umpire immediately reacts like he thinks it's revenge, even though it's only the top of the first inning, then there's more than a sporting chance that Tampa Bay left-hander David Price was looking to settle a score when he hit Kevin Youkilis with a fastball in his left shoulder Thursday night.

Price's willingness to do so may have won him some style points in the Rays clubhouse, but in the short run it might also have been a costly shift of focus. First base was open when he hit Youkilis, which prompted home-plate umpire Gary Darling to issue warnings to both sides -- odd given the seemingly innocuous circumstances.

By hitting Youkilis, Price loaded the bases, and when he walked the next batter, David Ortiz, it meant a run. Price gave up a couple more runs in the second inning, and by the time he settled down, a high pitch count was in the making and he was gone at the end of five innings, having thrown 106 pitches.

Runs were a precious commodity in this series, and the Rays never recovered from the early deficit, falling 4-2 to the Sox.

So why did Price have Youkilis in his sights? The pitcher would not talk about it after the game, but it appears to have stemmed from a play in the ninth inning Tuesday night, when Youkilis kicked Rays first baseman Casey Kotchman in the left ankle, leaving a bruise. Kotchman publicly exonerated Youkilis after the game. "I know he didn't mean to do it,'' Kotchman told Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times.

But that sentiment evidently was not shared in all precincts of the Rays clubhouse, and Youkilis became an even greater irritant to the Rays when he broke a scoreless tie in the seventh inning Wednesday night with a three-run home run.

So, did Youkilis believe there was intent?

"I mean, there's a base open, I just thought he doesn't have that bad a command a lot of times and, you know, I'm more mad because [the pitch] is up pretty high,'' he said. "The ball hits me up in the shoulder, and then hits my hand. If I get hit, you know me, I get hit a ton of times, it's not a big deal, but I don't like when the ball's up real high.''

Price also came off the mound toward the plate after hitting Youkilis, which looked confrontational.

"Ask him. You gotta ask him that question,'' Youkilis said. "And don't answer that question for me, either. I'm saying that right now. I have no comment on that. You have to ask him. I want that written like that, too.''

Asked what might have led Price to throw at him (question: "Do you know where that came from?''), Youkilis said: "I think the only thing that makes any logical sense, a lot of times you have a left-handed hitter [coming] up, a guy who doesn't run that well, and a base is open. So that's the only logical, if there was intent to it.''

When Kotchman was brought up, Youkilis looked puzzled. "I don't understand the Kotchman thing,'' he said. "I don't know. I think it was an accident running, lunging out, my foot came up over [Kotchman's foot]. My toe, if you watch in very slo-mo, was up pointed like I usually run, and hit his Achilles or his ankle. I've been stepped on at first base and we don't retaliate against anybody.''

But what about Darling immediately issuing warnings? Perhaps he thought there was intent?

"Well, to me, I'm not an umpire and I don't know how warnings work, but if you issue a warning there, we get hit by a pitch, that's a little too early to be issuing warnings in my mind,'' Youkilis said. "The way the game's played sometimes, it doesn't make it fair for us. We've had our fair share of our guys have hit guys. It happened in New York, guys did it the right way. Sometimes the warnings get thrown out there, it's all at the umpire's discretion. It's one of those things.''

Youkilis said that Price said nothing to him, nor did he say anything to the pitcher. Price told reporters he didn't say anything to Youkilis. When asked what the Sox third baseman said to him, Price replied: "I didn't listen to him"

The Red Sox are back here in a month, right after the All-Star break. Maybe this all gets forgotten. Given the history between these teams, maybe not.

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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