Fernandez apologizes after homer sets off fracas
Miami rookie feels 'embarrassed' after watching first dinger leads to benches clearing
MIAMI -- Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez took a good swing and got a better view of his first Major League home run, and the Braves took exception.
Career blast No. 1 for Fernandez set tempers in motion in the sixth inning on Wednesday night at Marlins Park, with both benches and bullpens clearing. Immediately following the 5-2 win over Atlanta, Miami manager Mike Redmond expressed regret at what happened. Fernandez apologized to the Braves, and both sides expressed confidence that there will be no carryover.
After Fernandez made contact on a home run to left field off Braves starter Mike Minor, he flung his bat and watched the flight of the ball before taking a slow trot around the bases. Minor stared at the Miami rookie, and by the time Fernandez crossed home plate, Braves catcher Brian McCann had some choice words for him.
"I had a good year, and it ends up like this, on a day like today, which is really important to all American people," Fernandez said on the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "It's something that is not right, and I'm embarrassed by it."
Fernandez carried over some emotions after the way Evan Gattis reacted after crushing a home run to lead off the top of the sixth.
"He took exception to Gattis' home run," McCann said. "You could tell that walking off the field. He happened to hit a home run and stood there. I just told him you can't do that. You can get someone hurt. It was just something that didn't need to happen.
"He didn't get aggressive. We just looked at each other. I think he realized that he messed up. I think the emotions got the best of him tonight."
"Him and I are really close," Fernandez said of McCann. "[Freddie] Freeman, too. He told me, 'Buddy, you can't do that.' I told him, 'I'm sorry, the game got the best of me.' I was just going to walk away. He was talking to me as a friend, or a dad, teaching a kid. That's how I felt."
To help make amends, a meeting was set up in the hallway near the clubhouses, and Fernandez apologized to McCann and Minor.
"I feel I don't deserve to be here, because this isn't high school no more," the rookie pitcher said. "This is a professional game, and we should be professional players. I think that never should happen. I'm embarrassed, and hopefully that will never happen again."
Atlanta third baseman Chris Johnson also took exception, and he was in the middle of the action. Johnson flied out to left in the top of the sixth, and exchanged words with Fernandez returning to the dugout. As Fernandez approached third on his home run trot, TV replays showed Johnson spitting toward the ground, and the pitcher following by spitting toward the base.
"The kid is a good pitcher," Johnson said. "He's got some other stuff going on, too, that upsets people sometimes. There were some guys in the dugout who weren't too happy with the smiling after getting people out and all of that kind of stuff. But it's fine. It's just guys being guys out there battling."
There was some pushing and shoving, but no punches thrown, and order was restored without any ejections. Warnings were issued.
"Not happy with that whole inning," Redmond said. "I think tonight showed some immaturity on Jose's part, and his youth. Not to make excuses for him. Showing the other team up with a home run, that's not what we're trying to do here. I know that he got caught up in the emotions. But I'm not happy. It really ruined the night for me. I know that will never happen again."
As a team, the Marlins addressed the situation, and the club is ready to move on.
"The way I've talked to these guys all year is to go up there and play hard," Redmond said. "We don't show teams up. We hit the ball and we run, that's it. We go out there and play hard. We respect the game. We respect the other team. We're 30-something games under .500. Those guys are going to the playoffs."
Fernandez, making his final start of his stellar rookie season, initially let his emotions stir in the top of the sixth. After Miami grabbed a 4-0 lead, Gattis homered on a 96-mph fastball to open the inning. After a McCann groundout, Johnson lined out to deep left field. Tempers were stirring then as the third baseman had some words with Fernandez.
"It's probably immaturity," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's a playful guy on the mound. He likes to have fun. We like to have fun, too. If he's going to play that playfulness game, then he shouldn't get upset when we hit a home run and have fun ourselves. It's boys being boys after that."
Once the top of the sixth inning ended, Fernandez was directing some words toward the Braves' dugout.
"This is a tough game," Gonzalez said. "You like to play loose and you like to have fun. But it's serious. Our guys take this serious. I know there are a lot of guys on that team over there that take it serious too. It will be taken care of."