Pirates' Leroux recalls brawl in World Baseball Classic
Right-hander Chris Leroux said the World Baseball Classic was "some of the most intense baseball I've ever been a part of."
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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Regardless of the outside perception, Team Canada's World Baseball Classic experience was intense.
Never mind the tenuous national ties, the fact that some of the best players weren't involved, the 19,581 attendance at Chase Field Saturday night in Phoenix. Team Canada participated in a tight matchup with the second round on the line and a testosterone-fueled brawl as well.
"It was really fun," said Chris Leroux, who played for Canada. "Some of the most intense baseball I've ever been a part of, and I'm sure I won't be a part of until it's playoff time. It was unbelievable."
Leroux, one of the right-handers competing for a long-relief role with the Pirates, started the game against Mexico -- and yes, there was a game, regardless of what the highlight reel showed. Leroux pitched three innings and allowed one unearned run, striking out four and walking one.
Pirates spring training report
Phillies 2, Pirates 1
Kyle McPherson 5 innings, 4 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 1 strikeout.
- Top batter:
Neil Walker 2 for 3, run
- Of note:
Two of McPherson's four hits allowed went for extra bases.
- News of the day:
McPherson, who is competing for the final spot in the rotation, did so Thursday against several of the Phillies regulars, including Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Domonic Brown. Manager Clint Hurdle said that mattered when evaluating pitchers, especially younger pitchers. "He was effective in following the game plan. The first-pitch strike number was good. Curveball was sharp, throwing it for strikes, changeup was mixed in, fastball to both sides of the plate. Good outing for him today." McPherson's start followed two previous outings in which he allowed four runs in three innings or fewer. He credited early contact with keeping runs off the board. "Spring training is something that you continue to get better every outing," he said. "You got to take the good with the bad and be aware of your mistakes and try not to repeat them in the future and hold onto the good things you do out there. It's been a roller coaster of a spring so far."
- Injury update:
Garrett Jones (oblique) is scheduled to start at first base in the game today against the Astros. He will bat at least twice and play five innings in the field. ... Jeff Karstens (biceps tightness) will throw a bullpen session Saturday and pitch two innings Monday. The Pirates have not decided whether Karstens will pitch Monday in a Grapefruit League game or a minor league game.
"I just kept my team in the game, which was what we needed," Leroux said. "The game before, when we lost, 14-4, to Italy, it wasn't very pretty. To get out of the game through three and only give up one unearned run was important to our team."
The Canadians won, 10-3, but not before the benches-clearing fight.
To understand the genesis of the fight, one must turn to the WBC rules, which require a calculator and scratch paper to implement. One of the methods for breaking ties in pool play involves ranking the teams by "Team Quality Balance," an equation based on run differential. That later becomes earned run differential and even team batting average if the tie persists.
All the more reason, then, for Canada's Chris Robinson to lead off the ninth by bunting down the third-base line with a 9-3 lead. That's generally a no-no, but the run-differential tiebreaker altered the etiquette. Mexican third baseman Luis Cruz didn't like it and motioned for pitcher Arnold Leon to hit the next batter, Rene Tosoni.
"As soon as the third baseman kind of motioned that the next guy was going to get hit, everybody in the dugout was kind of up in arms," Leroux said. "We were yelling at their third baseman right away. Even before he threw the pitch, we knew what was going to happen."
Sure enough, Leon drilled Tosoni square in the back.
"As soon as he got hit, the batter didn't charge the mound," Leroux said. "It was the dugout that charged the mound."
The dugouts cleared, and the teams met near the mound. Pushing and shoving ensued for the most part, though several players threw, and landed, punches. Leroux said he was right in the middle of it, but bear-hugged people instead.
"I wasn't going to throw any punches," he said. "I didn't feel like breaking my wrist and being out for the season."
As the scuffle simmered, the fans got involved, eventually throwing objects toward the players. A water bottle missed Leroux's head by inches and hit his pitching coach, Denis Boucher, in the head.
"I was talking to the fans," Leroux said. "I can't tell you what I was saying. It was definitely a heated exchange between me and a few fans."
The Mexicans and Canadians shared a hotel, and Team Canada needed a police escort to return there. Some Mexican fans were waiting for the Canadians outside the hotel.
"It was a mostly Mexican crowd, so you can imagine how scary it was for us," Leroux said. "I know some of the Canadian wives and babies left right away. They didn't stick around for the end of the game. That's international baseball."
Canada took an early lead against the United States the following day in a game started by Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon, but the Americans tied it in the fourth. An Adam Loewen single in the sixth put Canada back on top, but Adam Jones' double in the eighth gave the United States the lead for good.
"We had our top two bullpen guys in the game and just couldn't hold on," Leroux said. "That's a good lineup we faced."
Leroux said he was glad he stretched out to three innings, considering his immediate future with the Pirates is likely as a multi-inning reliever. The Montreal-born 28-year-old was grateful for one other result of the WBC experience.
"My status as team pushover?" he said. "That's no more."
First Published March 15, 2013 12:02 am