PHOENIX (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers are headed to the desert, a trip that inevitably recalls the big brawl that erupted with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the last series between the two NL West rivals.
Players from both sides say that the blowup, while not forgotten, has been pushed aside in favor of the more pressing matter of competing for the West title.
“We’ve got more important things to worry about than buzzing somebody or fighting,” Arizona outfielder Cody Ross said.
Some of the Dodgers vowed after the June 11 incident that it wasn’t over. Maybe some sort of revenge will be extracted far down the road, but probably not in the three-game series that begins Monday night.
Of course, that can change in a heartbeat.
“Right now I’m not sitting here thinking about Arizona. It’s not one of those cases,” Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell said. “It’s been like that for me before. In the past, you’ve had teams on your mind for weeks and months until you face them again. In this case, we got our tussling in and our fighting, so clean slate in my book. But if something pops off, it’s just the way it goes.”
Zach Greinke, the Dodgers pitcher on that fateful evening, starts Monday’s series opener. Ian Kennedy, who drew a 10-game suspension after he hit two Yasiem Puig and Greinke with high inside pitches, triggering the melee, goes for Arizona on Tuesday.
Kennedy didn’t want to talk about the significance of the matchup, calling it just another series.
It’s a necessary attitude, Arizona catcher Miguel Montero said.
`It’s not like this is our last series against them,” he said. “We’re playing them a lot so you’ve got to really move on. You can’t even think about it. … just play them like you play everybody else.”
The bench-clearing fracas drew eight suspensions from Major League Baseball.
Howell and Los Angeles infielder Skip Schumaker were suspended for two games and Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario, who proclimed at the time “it’s not over yet, not at all,” drew a one-game ban. Arizona’s Eric Hinske got a five-game suspension, later reduced to one game after MLB officials said he hadn’t thrown a punch after all. Hinske is no longer with the team.
Kennedy eventually dropped his appeal and served the 10 games.
Gibson and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly both were suspended for a game.
Before Sunday’s game against Colorado, Gibson repeated that no one was throwing intentionally at anyone’s head.
“I’ll re-state this again,” he said. “Anybody that thinks anybody would try to hit anybody in the head, it’s an illogical assumption. I don’t even say that there’s one person in the major leagues that could or would actually do that. I mean, people pitch inside. They’re going to today, they’re going to tomorrow, they’re going to the day after that. That’s part of the game.”
Of course, some players have very long memories. Retaliation could come months or even years from now.
“Certain players will hold grudges and you never know if they’re going to get them a year down the road or two years down the road, you never know,” Ross said, “but there’s definitely no thought or no intention when they get here to do anything. I don’t foresee anything.”
The Dodgers, after a slow start, have climbed back into contention, taking advantage of Arizona’s recent road struggles in what so far has been a week division, although the Diamondbacks have remained in first for some time and play 10 straight at home before the All-Star break.
Arizona swept three games over the Rockies while the Dodgers took two of three from San Francisco. That left the Dodgers alone in second place, 4 1/2 games behind the Diamondbacks.
Los Angeles has bolstered its rotation with the addition of Ricky Nolasco.
“They’re a different team than we played the last time,” Gibson said. “They’re getting more of their guys healthy and they’re very formidable. They continue to acquire guys to make themselves better. We just have to play good baseball and try and execute to beat them. If you get distracted by the sideshow, I think you inhibit your chances to do that.”
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