Teammate scuffle ends with Crick out for year

September 11th, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- The tension in the Pirates’ clubhouse surfaced again Monday in San Francisco, this time resulting in a season-ending injury for reliever .

The Pirates announced Tuesday that Crick underwent extensor tendon repair surgery on his right index finger, addressing an injury he sustained as a result of a fight with closer in the Pirates clubhouse on Monday afternoon at Oracle Park.

“It was one of those clubhouse altercations. A lot of bickering back and forth. Punches were thrown,” said Crick, who claimed that Vazquez threw the first punch. “At some point [you have to] stand up for yourself and start throwing them back. It’s one of those deals where it’s unfortunate. There are two losers in this deal; nobody can win a fight with a teammate.”

According to the Pirates’ statement, both players were fined an undisclosed amount because their conduct was in violation of their contracts. The club issued no suspensions as a result of the incident.

“The behavior exhibited by these two players last night is unacceptable, inconsistent with the standards expected of a Major League player and will not be tolerated by the organization,” general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement.

Crick’s surgery was performed in San Francisco by Dr. Scott Hanson. Crick is expected to return to full competition in time for Spring Training next year, the Pirates said.

This is the third documented incident of clubhouse turmoil for the Pirates in the second half, during which time they have struggled on the field as well. The Bucs entered the break with a 44-45 record and fell to 63-82 with a 5-4 loss to the Giants on Tuesday, securing their third losing season in the last four years.

“I'm not concerned with the chemistry. I have concerns about three individual incidents that have gone on this year,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We spoke to the club today. We had a conversation. We visited internally as a family. When challenges are there, how do you meet them? How do you rise above them?

“Anytime you have a family that spends a lot of time together like teams do in sport, in life, nobody likes when it happens. Unfortunately, it does happen. What can you learn from it? How can you put yourself in a better position for it not to happen again? That comes under my leadership title.”

On July 22, the Pirates suspended setup man Keone Kela for two games due to a clubhouse altercation involving Hector Morales, the Pirates’ director of cultural readiness and peak performance coach.

On July 30, the Pirates suspended bullpen coach Euclides Rojas for two games due to an altercation with Crick. According to a report in The Athletic last month, that argument began when Crick complained to Rojas that the All-Star Vazquez received preferential treatment among Pittsburgh’s relievers. Crick has continued to take issue with the idea that Vazquez operates on a different schedule, according to sources.

“In a way, this can hasten the process of moving forward because we kind of got it out of the way,” Crick said. “We can bicker for a little bit and I think this is something we can easily get past and mutually respect one another.”

Crick told reporters there was no single incident that led to Monday’s fight, but he feels their issues are now a thing of the past.

“It’s been a tough season all around. Frustrations have been high all around,” Crick said. “I don’t think anything really started it. It’s been a frustrating season all around. It got to a boiling point, and it kind of tipped over.”

Vazquez, 28, is putting together another elite season in Pittsburgh. The left-hander is 5-1 with a 1.71 ERA, 26 saves and 87 strikeouts in 54 appearances. He pitched in the Pirates’ 6-4 win over the Giants on Monday night, only hours after the scuffle occurred.

After Tuesday’s game, Vazquez declined to comment on the altercation.

Crick, who emerged last year as a reliable setup man for Vazquez, struggled after a strong start in Pittsburgh’s bullpen. The 26-year-old right-hander ends his season with a 3-7 record, a 4.96 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP in 52 appearances. It didn’t end the way he wanted, either.

“That’s about the most unfortunate thing that can happen in a season,” Crick said. “Getting an injury off the field is never a good thing.”