Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon is as competitive as it gets, and nothing seems to feed his juices like a game with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The teams had a bench clearing shoving match during batting practice — yes, batting practice — Wednesday, when Pirates hitting coach Gerald Perry appeared to land a punch to the chin of St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan, who later had to be restrained from going after McClendon.
The teams have had spats in 2002 and 2004, and Wednesday’s occurred two days after the Pirates lost second baseman Jose Castillo to a season-ending knee injury that occurred when he was taken out on a slide at second base by Hector Luna, which McClendon said was a clean play.
Pittsburgh pitcher Rick White threw a high-inside pitch to Luna on Tuesday, and Ryan Vogelsong later hit So Taguchi.
The Wednesday incident lasted about four minutes and led to a 12-minute meeting between McClendon and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. Crew chief Jerry Crawford joined the pair for an additional eight-minute session.
"You have two competitive clubs, and both clubs want to win," McClendon said. "Things probably got a little bit out of hand."
La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he took exception to White’s pitch, although it did not strike Luna. But it was Duncan who approached White during batting practice, and when McClendon saw that he told Duncan to stop talking to his player.
"If Tony had a question to ask, Tony should have come up and asked it,’’ White said.
While McClendon and Duncan were arguing near the wall, Perry approached. Television cameras showed Perry throw up his hand and catch Duncan’s chin.
La Russa intervened and McClendon ordered his team into the dugout. When Duncan charged toward McClendon, players and coaches from both teams converged again behind the batting cage.
In 2002, benches cleared when McClendon argued with Jim Edmonds. In 2004, McClendon and La Russa had to be restrained on the field after La Russa took exception to some inside pitches by Mike Gonzalez.
McClendon said he has never asked a pitcher to hit an opposing player.
"I never will," he said. "It’s a simple philosophy. Who am I to tell players how to react and how to feel? If you think an injustice is done to your teammate and you feel strong about it, take care of it. You don’t need me to tell you to do it."
Baltimore is exploring ways to dump right-hander Sidney Ponson after his second arrest on drunken-driving charges in seven months, and his third arrest in nine months.
Members of the Orioles’ front office met at owner Peter Angelos’ downtown law offices to discuss options, which could include voiding his contract because of standard clauses regarding conduct detrimental to the team and/or an inability to stay in shape. He is owed $10 million in 2006, the final year of his three-year, $22.5 million deal.
Should the Orioles attempt to void the final year of the contract, they certainly would face a grievance from the players’ union that would likely result in an independent arbiter making a final decision.
Ponson is not expected to pitch again this season because of calf and thumb injuries, and his history plus his contract make him virtually untradeable.
He could face suspension for an incident Wednesday in which he left the bench while in uniform and went to a suite at Camden Yards he frequently rents for a couple of innings before returning to the bench.
Ponson spent 11 days in jail for punching a judge on a beach in his native Aruba on Christmas Day and was arrested on drunken-driving charges in January in Florida, after which his weight reportedly ballooned to 260. He also was arrested on DUI charges in 1996 while an Orioles minor leaguer.
Curt Schilling and David Wells have joined Washington manager Frank Robinson in taking the occasion of Rafael Palmeiro’s failed drug test to take their shots, questioning the validity of Palmeiro’s 3,020 hits, 569 home runs and 1,834 RBIs.
"I read something the other day about his career, his career numbers and how a lot of his career numbers coincide with certain dates, and he obviously sat next to me in Washington (before Congress) and lied," Schilling said on his weekly Boston radio show.
"So I don’t know there’s any way to prove that anything he did was not under the influence of performanceenhancing drugs."
Robinson took the first shot earlier last week, saying, "Where do you go back, stop and say, ‘OK, when did he started using steroids?’ To eliminate all that, and get the players’ attention, you wipe the whole thing out.
"Why put the burden on baseball to try and figure out where to go, and maybe put an asterisk? Just wipe the whole thing out."
Wells suggested Palmeiro take a lie detector test to clear the air.
Florida suspended an unnamed batboy for taking a $500 dare last Sunday, after former Marlin right-hander Brad Penny offered the young man the money if he could drink a gallon of milk in an hour and keep it down.
The batboy will not be allowed to work the six-game homestand at Dolphin Stadium this week, although the Class A Fort Myers Miracle offered to pick up the batboy in a limo and as part of an promotion Monday in which all kids 14 and under will receive a free pint of milk.
"It’s kind of ridiculous that you get a 10-game suspension for steroids and a six-game suspension for milk,’’ Penny told the Miami Herald.
"Similar to a rehab stint, we want to help this kid stay on top of his game," Miracle general manager Steve Gliner said. "Instead of crying over spilt milk, we decided to offer him the honorary post."
• "I was watching some of the Little League World Series, and I think some of those guys could have probably gotten a hit off me.’’ - Florida right-hander Josh Beckett, after allowing six runs in 3 1/3 innings Tuesday.
• "Even when we were losing, the fans always came to see us play. It was at least 42,000 every game. It makes me sad. Colorado is a sports state and Denver is a baseball city. People just aren’t coming anymore.’’ - the Cubs’ Neifi Perez, on returning to thinning Coors Field.
• "My main concern was breathing, breathing, breathing. I didn’t know what was going on. I was just in a daze and it was kind of crazy. . . . I was coherent, but I was out of it." - Mike Cameron, recalling his collision with Carlos Beltran.
• Free agent-to-be Billy Wagner has talked about a new contract with the Phillies - he is seeking a threeyear deal with a no-trade clause; the Phils are believed to be offering a two-year deal with an option.
• Cleveland claimed Texas outfielder David Dellucci off the waiver wire last week, but the Rangers pulled Dellucci back and could not work out a deal with Cleveland, so Dellucci stayed put.
• With his 20th homer Monday, Tampa Bay’s Jorge Cantu joined Vinny Castilla and Erubiel Durazo as the only Mexican-born players to hit 20 home runs in a season.
• Todd Helton: Colorado first baseman had hit safely in 39 of 43 games, raising his batting average to .308.
• Carlos Peña: Detroit first baseman/DH had six home runs in four games beginning with two-homer games last Friday and Sunday.
• Noah Lowry: Giants’ lefthander was 4-0 with an 0.58 ERA in four August starts and had a 1.45 ERA since the All-Star break.
• Houston: The Astros have been shut out 15 times this season, seven when Roger Clemens was on the mound.
• Jason Marquis: St. Louis hurler had lost seven consecutive starts before shutting out Washington on Saturday.
• David Bell: Philadelphia third baseman has grounded into an NL-high 21 double plays and is hitting .208 against right-handers.