Though the pitch barely grazed Orlando Cabrera's jersey, it set off the shortstop, turning his 2004 World Series cheers into boos. While there appeared to be no bad blood between Cabrera and Red Sox pitcher Julian Tavarez, it didn't read like that in the third inning of yesterday's game.
Instead, Cabrera advanced a third of the way up the first base line before turning to Tavarez and yelling at him. Cabrera was restrained by catcher Kevin Cash as the dugouts and bullpens emptied. No real argument ensued, as Tavarez stood relatively calmly -- especially for a guy who made his Red Sox introduction with a slug to Joey Gathright -- and watched Cabrera steam.
"It was more personal than anything," Cabrera told the Los Angeles Times. "When we were at home, after I hit a double against him in the first game, he told me at the first base line that I was getting signs from second base. I said, 'No, I don't do that.' He told me, 'You're like Julio Lugo, you like to give signs. If Lugo played for another team I would have hit him.' So it didn't take much to know he was going to hit me. I thought it was intentional. I said, 'Are you satisfied now?' "
Tavarez acknowledged the pair had spoken out West, with Tavarez accusing Cabrera of trying to sneak a look at the catcher's signs while at the plate. Cabrera doubled off Tavarez in the seventh inning Aug. 6. In yesterday's case, in a game that would eventually go to the Angels, 3-1, Cabrera was batting with one out and no one on base when he was hit.
"I pay bills, too," Tavarez said. "I want to pitch inside and I've got a game plan . . . I don't know what he said to me. I know he made a step. He didn't walk to first base. I don't even hit him, I hit the jersey. He is trying to say things to me, I don't know what he said. I said, 'Instead of walking to first base, why don't you just come out here so we can finish this?'
"I said to him in Anaheim when we faced him, I said, 'Listen I think you're looking [at the catcher's signs]. Every time you're hitting, you turn your face and look at the location. If you're doing that, stop doing that because I will hit you if you're doing that. Let's play the game the right way.' He said, 'No, no, I'm not doing that.'
"I ain't going to go out there and try to put guys on base for Vladi Guerrero. I ain't going to go out there and hit guys, walking guys, cause it's not good for me. Because I'm a free agent guy. I'm looking to do my job out there. I'm not looking to give up runs out there. Why does he think I'm trying to hit him on purpose?"
The team gave its biggest signing bonus to its fifth-round pick, third baseman-pitcher Will Middlebrooks, a highly regarded prospect who was headed for Texas A&M and had been recruited as a football player. Middlebrooks agreed to a bonus of $925,000. The Sox also gave big bonuses to seventh-round pick David Mailman ($550,000), a high school first baseman from North Carolina, and 23d-round pick Drake Britton ($700,000), a lefthander from Texas also recruited by A&M. Sixth-round pick Anthony Rizzo, a high school first baseman from Florida, signed for $325,000.
The one that got away was second-round pick Hunter Morris, a first baseman from Alabama who chose to attend Auburn.
"Considering where we were selecting in the draft, we're pretty pleased with the outcome," scouting director Jason McLeod wrote in an e-mail. "I just saw Nick Hagadone pitch [Thursday] night in Lowell and he was very impressive. I think we were able to add arms that we'll be excited about in the near future: Hagadone, [Brock] Huntzinger, [Chris] Province, [Ryan] Pressly, [Austin] Bailey, Britton, [Hunter] Strickland, etc. As to the recently signed players, all of them bring a certain skill set we value and feel that they will be successful professional players.
"Middlebrooks is an exceptional athlete [quarterback for a back-to-back state champion, All-State punter three years in a row]. We feel [he] can play the corner position and has a chance to hit for power. Britton is a pitcher we have followed for the past year. He happened to have a bad spring, but we saw him throw well this summer and he has what we determine to be very good makeup. We've had him up to 94 [miles per hour] and I think he has a chance to be a power lefthanded pitcher. We felt Mailman was/is an advanced high school hitter and Rizzo has outstanding raw power with a good approach. Of course, we still need to watch them over the next few years but feel very good about their prospects.
"It's always a blow when you don't sign your second-round selection, but we take solace in the fact we'll receive compensation with the same pick in next year's draft. We thought we had a deal and then he changed his mind and asked for more money."