NEW YORK – A day after CC Sabathia sounded off on a Boston bunt, small ball was still causing a big back-and-forth between the New York Yankees and Red Sox.
Sabathia got riled Thursday night when Eduardo Nunez dropped a bunt, which the pitcher threw away for an error. After a 6-2 win over their longtime rivals, the burly lefty who’s been slowed by knee trouble called the Boston strategy “weak.”
That prompted Hall of Fame slugger Jim Rice, who starred for the Red Sox and is now an analyst on the club’s flagship TV station, to take aim at Sabathia’s size.
“What is he talking about? Bunting is part of the game. You try to get on base any way you can,” Rice said on the NESN postgame show. “If you tell him to leave some of that chicken, that doughnuts and that burger away, maybe his leg would be OK (and) he can field that baseball. That’s just stupid.”
The Red Sox led the AL East by 4 1/2 games going into Friday night’s matchup at Yankee Stadium. Before the game, the 37-year-old Sabathia took the comments by the 64-year-old Rice in stride.
“I laughed. I can’t go back and forth with him. It is what it is. I’ve been pitching for 17 years at this weight,” Sabathia said. “Do some research on me before you come out yapping. I’m a fat guy so he’s right. I don’t know what to say.”
“I’ve never met him,” he said. “I just know this isn’t the first time he’s made negative comments about me. … He just is who he is. I just hope when I’m that age I’m not that bitter.”
Nunez reached on Sabathia’s misplay in the first. When the inning ended, Sabathia shouted toward the Boston dugout.
As for bunting in general, Sabathia said: “It’s not that it’s out of bounds, I guess.”
He just doesn’t like it.
“That’s just me. It doesn’t matter who is bunting or who I’m playing,” he said Friday. “We could be playing a Little League game. If my son bunts on me, I’m going to cuss him out. That’s just me. So it is what it is. I’ve always been like that. This is nothing new, and I think a lot of people know that.”
The next time Nunez came up, he apologized — sort of — to his former Yankees teammate.
“I said I’m sorry, but if I want to bunt again, I would do it,” Nunez said Friday. “He’s one of the greatest teammates that I’ve had. He’s a great person. He’s a really competitive guy, but we’re on different sides right now, and I feel sorry because of his pain, but it’s my job.”
“For my speed, if he has knee issues, I have to bunt. I have to be on base to win games. If he’s hurt, he can go back to the DL. It’s simple. I have to bunt there. It’s not my problem,” he said.
Smiling, he added, “What am I going to do? Hit 40 homers? There’s no chance. I don’t know. It’s a joke. It’s funny.”
Boston manager John Farrell defended Nunez.
“I heard (CC’s) comments, but that’s part of the skill package of Eduardo. He’s got speed,” Farrell said. “If he feels like that’s an opportunity for him, to take advantage of a certain game situation, that’s what we do. That’s what every team does.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi offered another take on the situation.
“It’s the competitor in him and CC wants to match his best against their best and to me it’s an old-school mentality,” he said.
“Things you might have heard out of a Bob Gibson or a Nolan Ryan or a Roger Clemens if you tried to bunt on them in certain situations, they would get angry. So I don’t think CC is trying to cause a rift or is putting the Red Sox down,” Girardi said. “I think it’s the competitiveness in CC who wants to face their best, and he knows there’s a bunch of very good hitters over there.”