Grant Balfour and Paul Konerko made it sound Saturday as if there’s really nothing to their near-brouhaha.
Just a lot of confusion. And yelling.
Moments before Jose Abreu’s grand slam lifted the White Sox to a 9-6 win on Friday night, Konerko drew a walk to load the bases and sparks flew between him and the Tampa Bay Rays closer. As Konerko reached the halfway point to first base he heard Balfour barking and looked back and shouted, wanting to know if the commotion was directed at him. More shouting ensued and the two had to be separated by Rays first baseman James Loney and plate ump Chris Segal.
But the incident never got any further and Balfour insisted to Tampa Bay reporters Saturday there was no ill will towards Konerko --- it’s just the way he pitches.
“I totally respect (Konerko),” Balfour said. “He’s a great player. It was definitely not toward him. If you watch when I pitch, I always walk in after I pitch, get the ball and I kind of look in there. Just what I do. Just what I’ve done. I went in there to get the ball, get another ball and I was just (expletive) yelling. I was pissed at myself. You saw how much I missed by on that pitch.”
“I was frustrated that I couldn’t make a pitch in the zone to get him out. I was walking guys. So I was just pissed at myself and frustrated. I wasn’t yelling at him or anyone else. I was really angry at myself last night for the way I went about it.”
[RELATED: Abreu plays hero with walk-off grand slam]
“When I went to get the ball and I kind turned around and he was yelling at me, ‘What’s going on?’ And he starts yelling at me, ‘Are you talking to me?’ I said ‘I’m not talking to you. (expletive), I’m pissed.’ I was frustrated.”
“I told the umpire the same thing. I wasn’t talking to him. I don’t know why the (expletive) he was yelling at me. Just go to first base. I’m just trying to get out here and work.”
Konerko knows Balfour is a vocal pitcher.
The Aussie spent parts of three seasons in Minnesota and his antics on the mound are similar to ex-Detroit Tigers pitcher Jose Valverde, who’s known for his flapping style on the mound. Balfour walked three batters in the inning, including Marcus Semien to reload the bases for Abreu, who drilled a 1-0 fastball into the bullpen in right for a game-winning homer.
Konerko said he was mostly surprised by the pitcher’s proximity to him when he heard the racket.
“He’s close to me, eye contact was made and I started running down the line and I heard yelling,” Konerko said. “I don’t know what he was yelling about it. I was just trying to make sure it wasn’t towards my direction. That’s really it. I think he was probably yelling at himself to get going or get better or whatever. When someone’s that close yelling, you want to find out why. When someone on a baseball field on the other team is yelling that close to you, you just can’t have that.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura jokingly suggested Konerko was fired up for another reason -- he had been in the clubhouse a little earlier to catch the end of the Blackhawks’ playoff game in St. Louis.
Konerko is perhaps the biggest Blackhawks fan on the team.
“It was competitive stuff coming out,” Ventura said. “Paul might have been watching the Blackhawks game.”