Tepera on HBP conflict: 'We had had enough'

April 16th, 2021

CHICAGO -- Before fielding any questions on Friday, Cubs reliever made something clear: The errant pitch that led to a three-game suspension did indeed have a message behind it.

"There was no malicious intent," Tepera said. "It was just a message that we had had enough."

The pitch in question was a 95 mph fastball behind the legs of Brewers pitcher Brandon Woodruff in the fifth inning of Tuesday's 3-2 win for the Cubs. It led to suspensions and undisclosed fines for Tepera and manager David Ross.

MLB concluded that Tepera intentionally threw at Woodruff in an announcement made by MLB's senior vice president for on-field operations Michael Hill.

Tepera has started the appeal process, so he remains eligible to pitch for the Cubs until the outcome of his hearing. Ross opted to serve his one-game suspension on Friday, but spoke with the media prior to the game against Atlanta.

"It's just a little confusing, I think, to me, from my seat," Ross said of the suspensions. "It's out of my control. I've voiced my displeasure to the powers that be. We'll move on."

Tepera did what he could to clear up any confusion by acknowledging that, yes, he chose to throw in Woodruff's direction intentionally. The reason? He felt some of his Cubs teammates had been on the receiving end of too many hit-by-pitches this season and last.

Earlier in Tuesday's game, catcher Willson Contreras was hit on the hand by a Woodruff pitch. That marked the third time this season (and seventh time dating back to 2020) that Contreras had been hit by Milwaukee pitchers.

On April 5, Contreras was hit in the helmet by a pitch from Brewers reliever Devin Williams. One game later, Contreras was hit on the arm by Brad Boxberger, setting off a bench-clearing episode after the catcher barked angrily at the pitcher.

"It's obviously not intentional,” Brewers infielder Travis Shaw said after the second incident. "At the same time, [Contreras] did get hit in the head [the previous] night, so I kind of understand some frustration. We're not trying to hit him."

Ross pointed out that the Cubs led the Majors in being hit by the pitch (61 times) in his two seasons (2020-2021) at the helm. The Mets ranked second at 54, entering Friday. Contreras, specifically, has been hit more times by the Brewers than any one player by a single opponent in that time period.

As it happens, the Brewers (10) had been hit more often than the Cubs (nine) this season, heading into Friday's action. That was, of course, before Atlanta hit the Cubs four more times in Friday's game. Six of the Brewers' HBPs have come from Chicago pitchers.

Tepera said he took it upon himself to "support my teammates and have their backs" with his pitch to Woodruff.

"There was multiple times that we saw the same thing happening last year to this year," Tepera said. "I think it was just the right time to kind of send a message. ... I chose to do it."

In the wake of Tuesday's game, Contreras said he had no idea that Tepera was going to throw in Woodruff's direction. And, while the situation on the field calmed, the Cubs catcher spoke with the Brewers pitcher.

"That caught me off-guard. I didn't know anything about it," Contreras said. "I was just trying to calm [Woodruff] down, because I know how it feels to be thrown at. We were good. We had a good conversation."

Even with his admission, Tepera said he was still "very surprised" to receive the suspension from MLB.

"I believe over time, baseball has changed," Tepera said. "Back in the day, matters were settled on the field -- one of many unwritten rules that have changed over time.

"I feel that, typically, it doesn't bode well in the clubhouse when guys are consistently being thrown at."