Broken wrist polarizes Yanks, Rays

Broken wrist polarizes Yanks, Rays

TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi criticized the Rays for a violent home-plate collision on Saturday that fractured prospect Francisco Cervelli's right wrist.

But Rays manager Joe Maddon called the play "hardball," saying that there was nothing dirty at all about infielder Elliott Johnson's ninth-inning decision to hit the catcher hard.

The play occurred in Tampa Bay's 4-1 victory at Legends Field, as Johnson was trying to score on a Willy Aybar double to left field. Johnson lowered his shoulder and tried to jar the ball loose from Cervelli, who was guarding the plate as a relay throw came in.

Cervelli held on to record the putout, the second out of the inning, but he had to leave the game after being attended to on the field. Cervelli was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa for X-rays, and the Yankees said that his wrist will be casted on Saturday night.

"I think it's uncalled for," Girardi said. "It's Spring Training. You get people hurt, and that's what we've got -- we've got Cervelli hurt. I know they had an incident four or five days ago. I'm all for playing hard, but I don't think it's the time when you run over a catcher in Spring Training."

Maddon had a differing point of view, speaking with reporters before he learned of Girardi's comments. He would later decline comment to a second wave of reporters.

"I loved the hardball," Maddon said. "We're playing it hard, we're playing it right. It was a bang-bang play at the plate. I couldn't tell exactly where the catcher was in regard to the plate. He was trying to score a run right there, and that was part of the game."

The play was the second this week involving a home-plate collision in a Rays game. On Wednesday, Carl Crawford barreled into Astros catcher Humberto Quintero at Progress Energy Park, allowing two runs to score as Quintero lost the ball.

Girardi said he was aware of the Houston play. A former Major League catcher, Girardi said he understands plays at the plate will happen during the season, but he believes they are inappropriate for Spring Training. In fact, he said one Yankees player asked the new manager about that topic before exhibition games started.

Girardi's response: Absolutely not.

"I've always known that you don't do it," Girardi said. "I know kids are playing aggressive and playing hard. That's how you want them to play. But maybe if it happens too much, you should mention something."

Johnson, a 23-year-old infielder who played last year at Triple-A Durham, said that his play was well-received in the Rays' dugout. Maddon and other coaches complimented the roster hopeful on his hustle.

"I'm not trying to hurt anybody, especially in a Spring Training game," Johnson said. "I hope he doesn't lose his job. But I'm trying to show these guys what I can do. I'm just trying to score the run. Looking back on it, I'd have to say I'd probably do the same thing."

Johnson said that he saw Cervelli's left foot blocking home plate as he waited for the relay throw from Jason Lane to Wilson Betemit. Johnson said that he could have tried to hook around the catcher and slide, but he believed he would be out.

"With the time that I had there, the instinct was to slide and be out, or hit him and see if I could pop the ball loose," Johnson said.

The fracture is another painful moment for Cervelli, a 22-year-old catching prospect who broke a bone in his right hand when he was hit by a pitch during winter ball.

Cervelli, who played last year at Class A Tampa and is well-regarded within the organization as a defensive receiver, was also hit in the left elbow by Rays prospect David Price in the seventh inning on Saturday.

"It's OK," Cervelli said. "It's part of the game. Maybe [it was] adrenaline or something like that."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.