DETROIT -- Chris Sale didn’t intend to throw up and in to Prince Fielder in an incident that sparked both benches clearing on Thursday afternoon.
The White Sox starting pitcher didn’t hit Fielder with a pitch but he came close enough that the Detroit Tigers followed suit and threw behind Alexei Ramirez half an inning later. The shortstop took exception to the pitch thrown by Tigers reliever Luke Putkonen and the benches and bullpens emptied. Though no punches were thrown, both Putkonen and Detroit manager Jim Leyland were ejected from the game.
Afterward, as Leyland and Fielder declined to comment and Ramirez stayed heated, Sale said he knew his mistake -- one that occurred right after he allowed a home run to Miguel Cabrera -- was a catalyst.
“Any time your teammates have something like that happen because of something you did, that’s not fun,” Sale said. “Obviously I don’t want to sit here and say it was intentional. Maybe it got away from (Putkonen) as well. But you see something like that and you feel like a bigger idiot knowing that could have hurt and injured (Ramirez). That was because of me.”
[RELATED: Phegley takes Sale for a spin in Sox victory]
Ramirez wasn’t as diplomatic about Putkonen’s pitch as Sale. The right-hander reliever’s first offering traveled behind Ramirez’s back and he didn’t hesitate to show he was unhappy. Ramirez immediately pointed at Putkonen and took two steps toward the mound, leading to a mass of bodies racing toward home plate from both dugouts and bullpens. Putkonen was ejected by plate ump Chad Fairchild and Leyland was shortly thereafter. No White Sox players were ejected from the contest.
“I reacted like any other player would have,” Ramirez said through a translator. “That wasn’t a pitch that was intended to go in the zone. That pitch was intended to hurt me. If you are hurting me, you are hurting my family. You are hurting my kids. That’s something I have to react to.”
[RELATED: GIFs: Benches clear in White Sox-Tigers game]
White Sox manager Robin Ventura and Sale both felt the left-hander’s pitch to Fielder was thrown in frustration and had no intent. But Ventura also knew it played part in what he described “a mess.” Leyland was furious in the immediate aftermath -- perhaps because Putkonen had been ejected without a previous warning -- and again when Ramirez stepped back in to box after new reliever Al Alburquerque
completed his warmup tosses. Asked why he ejected Putkonen but didn’t warn or toss Sale or Ramirez, Fairchild determined the former had thrown with intent unlike Sale’s pitch to Fielder.
“There was no reaction from Fielder,” Fairchild told a pool reporter. “He said nothing. There was no reaction from anyone else. The only reaction I saw was from Sale, who made a motion like, ‘Damn, it got
Sale said he could see Leyland’s point of view because Leyland didn’t know whether he threw at his hitter on purpose. He intends to make it clear to Leyland next week at the All-Star Game he didn’t mean to harm Fielder in order to avoid further instances of retaliation.
“From the outside looking in, it doesn’t look good,” Sale said. “I looked at it after the game, just to check and see how far in that was. Even when I threw it on the mound, I was kind of like 'Oh, that’s not good.’ I swear on everything I love, it was unintentional. There was nothing, no purpose, nothing behind it other than trying to throw too hard and miss a spot.”