08/22/06 1:29 AM ET
Jays lose tight game after altercation
Lilly, Gibbons exchange words during pitcher's removal
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
That became apparent when the players watching the game from the Jays bench bolted from their seats and followed a team trainer into the tunnel that leads to Toronto's clubhouse at the Rogers Centre. Gibbons and Lilly both insist that the heated exchange that took place out of sight on Monday night was nothing more than an angry shouting match.
The reports that quickly swirled, claiming that the two got into a fight that left Gibbons wiping a bloody nose later in the dugout, were merely rumors, according to the two men involved in the altercation. The only things that are certain are that Lilly wasn't happy that his manager wanted to pull him from the game in the third inning, and Gibbons wasn't pleased with his pitcher's reaction.
"Luckily, nothing like that happened," said Lilly, referring to the alleged fight that took place during Toronto's 12-10 loss to Oakland. "The rest of the guys made sure it didn't get out of control. They were more aware that we'd regret it later than we were at the time.
"There were no punches thrown," he added. "I don't think John had a bloody nose. I don't know how that would've happened."
After the game, Gibbons spoke with Lilly and the two apparently were able to settle the dispute that began on the mound in the third. Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi spoke with Gibbons afterwards, but wasn't available for comment. Blue Jays President and CEO Paul Godfrey hung around after the game and met with reporters, though.
Godfrey said he was pleased with how Gibbons and Lilly handled the situation and didn't anticipate any punishment for either party.
"I don't see any reason for discipline," Godfrey said. "Ted and the manager worked it out between them. If Ted and the manager can work that out between them, then I think that's the end of it."
The confrontation began after Lilly started to struggle mightily in the third frame against the Athletics (71-54). Toronto (66-59) powered its way out to an 8-0 lead after two innings -- thanks in part to home runs by Alex Rios and Troy Glaus -- but that considerable margin was diminishing rapidly in the third.
So with one out, one A's runner on, and Toronto's lead chopped down to 8-5, Gibbons left his seat in the dugout and headed out to the mound. Gibbons appeared to say something to Lilly before he reached the hill and the two shared some angry words before the left-hander finally surrendered the ball and headed off the field and into the tunnel.
Gibbons wouldn't discuss what exactly was said on the mound.
"I won't go into that," Gibbons said. "He wasn't happy with the fact that I took him out and I wasn't happy with the way the game was going. That's basically it.
"The way I looked at it was, we went up by eight runs, and then things started snowballing," he added. "I've been around long enough to know sometimes you've got to put a tourniquet on it."
On a TV replay, Lilly appeared to say, "I'm trying to win the game," before giving the ball up to Gibbons. After the loss, the pitcher reiterated that sentiment.
"Believe it or not, with the way things were going, I still think I can find a way to keep us in the game," Lilly said. "He was pretty mad. He didn't like the way I was pitching and neither did I. I was already upset enough with myself and I didn't handle it well at the time. That wasn't very good. This thing could've gone over a little better if I would've controlled my emotions."
With his emotions at a dangerous high, Lilly -- charged with seven runs on eight hits in 2 1/3 innings -- walked off the mound and into the tunnel, where he would continue his argument with Gibbons a few moments later. Neither Lilly nor Gibbons would say whether or not either person shoved the other, but they continued to reiterate that no punches were thrown.
"I didn't get hit -- nobody got hit. Everything's fine," Gibbons said. "I wasn't bloodied and he wasn't bloodied. Clarify that -- nobody got bloodied."
The altercation came about a month after Gibbons challenged Shea Hillenbrand to a fight during a pregame meeting in Toronto's clubhouse on July 19. That incident came after a number of issues involving Hillenbrand, who was unhappy with his playing time and openly criticized the Toronto organization. Hillenbrand was designated for assignment and the Jays traded Hillenbrand to the Giants three days later.
"The two situations are very different," Godfrey said. "The two of them have talked and they both realize that they were probably more vocal than they should have been."
Gibbons added that Lilly would make his next scheduled start on Sunday at home against Kansas City. Lilly, who will become a free agent after this season, is hoping he does get that opportunity.
"I want to [start again]," Lilly said. "I want to pitch for the rest of these guys in the locker room and for the organization. Who knows how long I have left here?"
After Lilly exited the game, Toronto's bullpen yielded five runs and right-hander Brandon League (0-1) was saddled with the loss. The poor pitching performances and the confrontation between Gibbons and Lilly overshadowed a good night for Toronto's offense, which collected 14 hits in the loss.
"This was a bad day," Lilly said. "I embarrassed the organization, letting something like this get to the point where we're here talking about it. I've always wanted to avoid these situations."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.