TORONTO — It's not the retribution that bothers John Gibbons, it's the timing.
The Blue Jays manager addressed media on Monday afternoon, a day after Toronto all-star right-fielder Jose Bautista was hit in the ribs by a pitch from Texas reliever Matt Bush and then punched in the face by Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor after a hard slide on the basepaths.
Bush's throw was apparently in retribution for Bautista's dramatic bat flip after a home run in Game 5 of the American League Division Series last season. The two teams had played in two three-game series this season before Sunday's bench-clearing brawl.
"It didn't happen what, the first six games?" said Gibbons in his office ahead of Monday's game with the Tampa Bay Rays. "My only complaint was that if you've got an issue with someone, we get that, everyone views things differently, and if you're going to do something, hey, that's part of it, we get it.
"But I figured you might do it right away. Then you've got six more games for things to play out the way they're going to play out."
Instead, the Rangers and Blue Jays won't play again this year, unless they meet in the post-season.
Bush plunked Bautista in the top of the eighth with Texas holding a 7-6 lead. Bautista ran to second on a groundout by Justin Smoak, with his brawl-triggering slide forcing Odor to throw wildly to first on an attempted double play. The Rangers were awarded an inning-ending double play on the Chase Utley rule.
But all the attention was on second base as Odor and Bautista argued. Odor shoved Bautista, creating enough space to wind up and catch the lunging Blue Jays right-fielder flush on the jaw with a punch.
Toronto centre-fielder Kevin Pillar was one of the first players to reach the two fighting players as the benches cleared.
"When that punch is thrown, especially to a guy that's not really expecting it because it's something out of the ordinary in a baseball game, your mindset changes and you're going out there as a soldier to protect your guys and protect your team and protect what you think is right," said Pillar in the Blue Jays clubhouse. "It's unfortunate that it had to escalate to that. In the heat of the moment, I think everyone in here did what they think is right to protect our guy."
Bautista did not speak to media ahead of Monday's game with Tampa, other than to say that he was feeling fine despite absorbing Odor's haymaker.
"If they thought it was something they needed to do, they got him. Hopefully this is the end of it," said Pillar, who also disliked the timing of hitting Bautista with the pitch. "I think it should have been done earlier, could have been done earlier, but it wasn't."
Gibbons said that he hadn't heard anything about discipline from Major League Baseball in the wake of the brawl, but punishment is expected. The Toronto manager had been ejected in the third inning of the game for arguing balls and strikes but returned to the field for the fight, something he's been suspended for in the past.
Odor, Bautista, and Bush are all candidates for suspension, as is Toronto reliever Jesse Chavez, who hit Rangers hitter Prince Fielder with the first pitch after play resumed, triggering a second brawl. Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson and Texas bench coach Steve Buechele had also been ejected from the game after the initial fight.
Blue Jays bench coach Demarlo Hale was tossed along with Chavez because he was filling in for Gibbons as Toronto's manager.
"I don't know what the repercussions are going to be," said Gibbons. "They've got a lot to deal with now. You always anticipate (Bautista being hit by a pitch) might happen going in, that was the talk. (Media) talked about it a lot, everybody does. Players talk, y'know. They hear things."
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