Leyland defends Porcello after Acta's remarks

Leyland defends Porcello after Acta's remarks

Leyland defends Porcello after Acta's remarks
ST. PETERSBURG -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland came to the defense of his young starter Rick Porcello on Monday, a day after Indians manager Manny Acta suggested Porcello should have been ejected for throwing behind Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera on Sunday.

It wasn't exactly bulletin-board material for the Tigers, who were preparing for a four-game series against the Rays at Tropicana Field on Monday, but Acta's argument that Porcello should have been instantly ejected caught both Leyland and Porcello by surprise.

"Did it look bad? Yes. Was he throwing at him? In my opinion, absolutely not," Leyland said. "And my other opinion is, if you're throwing at a Major League hitter, I think if you stand a guy up at home plate and Rick Porcello wants to hit him, he can hit him. I believe most Major League pitchers can.

"There was no reason for it. There's absolutely been no bad blood between the Cleveland Indians and the Detroit Tigers -- none, absolutely none. I think it's a very respectful competition, and I know of absolutely no bad blood, at least from our side."

The pitch in question came in the third inning of a scoreless game, after Cabrera hit a drive deep to right field that went foul. Cabrera watched the ball travel foul. The next pitch from Porcello went behind his lower back, prompting an angry reaction from Cabrera.

"I think everybody, including the vendors in this stadium, knew that he threw at him," Acta said after the game.

After calming tensions, the umpires conferred for a couple of minutes, then home-plate umpire Paul Schrieber issued warnings to both clubs.

"I thought that was handled very poorly, myself," Acta said. "When that happens in a game, you don't need a warning. You need to throw the guy out of the game. And if you don't throw the guy out of the game, then you should not issue a warning, because then we're not getting our shot."

Leyland and Porcello both disagreed.

"I was trying to go up and in and I pulled it," Porcello said Monday. "I know it looked bad because it went behind him, but that's it."

Porcello said he was "kind of" surprised by the warnings, but that Cabrera's reaction likely prompted the umpires to take action. Acta's comments definitely surprised him.

"I don't know, to me it wasn't a big deal," Porcello said. "But obviously he felt differently. That's the way it is. It's the game."

Said Leyland: "I understand when somebody throws the ball behind a guy, I think it sends a red flag to everybody. And I understand that part of it. I don't have any problem, certainly, with Manny Acta's comments. That's his business. But it didn't make any sense to me. Nobody in our dugout or anyplace thought Cabrera was doing anything wrong."

Then Leyland had another take on the warnings.

"In fact, to be honest with you, I'll take it a step further: If he hits him with that pitch, there would've never been a warning. It would've gone as just, 'Well, he tried to get it in there and he happened to hit him.' But because it went behind him and it looks different, there was a warning, which is fine."

Before Sunday's game, Leyland and Cabrera were on the field together talking, along with former Indians catcher Victor Martinez, who now plays for Detroit.

"I really like that guy a lot," Leyland said of Cabrera. "There was no issue whatsoever. It's competition and the pitch got away. It looked bad. I can understand the reaction. And that's my reaction back to it. So, no big deal. If they feel it is, then that's their business. I can't do anything about that. They can handle that however they want to. I respect that, but that's up to them."

Though Leyland said repeatedly there's no bad blood between the Tigers and Indians, he pointed to a May 1 matchup between them at Progressive Field. Two batters were hit on each side, including Detroit's Ramon Santiago in the back after Phil Coke had hit Michael Brantley with a two-out pitch the previous inning. Miguel Cabrera was hit by a pitch later in the game, as was Shelley Duncan. No warnings were issued, and no one was ejected.

"They plunked Santiago in the back and they hit Cabrera in the same game. We never said anything," Leyland said. "Brantley got hit, I want to say on a breaking ball up and in, and [Justin] Masterson plunked Santiago in the back and Cabrera got hit later. No problem. I don't really see any problem. And I think Rick Porcello was telling the absolute truth."

In the end, Leyland said, sometimes two teams look at the same thing differently. From his view, however, it made no sense -- the perception or the reaction.

"There's absolutely no logic behind it," Leyland said. "The last thing you're trying to do after you win the first two games is [tick] the team off the third game, when it's 0-0. You're certainly not trying to [tick] somebody off.

"You can make arguments for both sides, but that's just the way I look at it. If the Cleveland Indians hit somebody the next time we play, so be it. I'm not going to sit around and worry about it. I'm not going to take issue. If they think they've got to do something, that's their business. That's not my business."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.