Royals dismiss notion of intent on hit-by-pitch

Sparkman ejected in 2nd after plunking Anderson on helmet

May 30th, 2019

CHICAGO -- Royals right-hander 's first bid to secure a spot in the rotation lasted only a little more than an inning in the Royals’ 8-7 loss to the White Sox on Wednesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Sparkman, making just his second start of the season, was ejected by home-plate umpire Mark Carlson after a changeup by Sparkman hit off the top of White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson’s helmet in the second inning.

Carlson did not issue a warning. It was the first ejection of Sparkman’s career and it was Anderson’s first plate appearance of the series.

Anderson and the Royals were involved in a heated incident here at Guaranteed Rate Field in mid-April after Royals right-hander Brad Keller hit Anderson in the backside with a pitch. Anderson had homered in his previous at-bat and celebrated in a lengthy fashion.

Both Anderson and Keller were ejected and suspended in that incident in which both benches emptied onto the field.

“You know, the stuff that happened in the past happened in the past,” Royals catcher Martin Maldonado said. “We weren’t trying to hit him. [Carlson] told me that it was just bad timing. That’s what he said. I said, ‘You can’t throw my pitcher out [because of] bad timing. At least give him a warning.’

“He said, ‘I can’t give you a warning when he’s trying to hit him in the head.’ [Laughs]. He wasn’t trying to hit the head. We were cool afterward because he understood my points. I also understood his points. He said, ‘The reason we had to throw him out is because it was close to the face, the head.’ He also was expecting them to retaliate against us.”

Predictably, Royals manager Ned Yost was not pleased by the ejection because it forced him to use up his bullpen, which has been depleted because of two doubleheaders and a suspended game in the past week.

“I’ve got to choose my words carefully,” Yost said. “As far as we’re concerned, coming into this series, we had no animosity toward that young man. None. And to think we’re going to hit him on purpose is ludicrous. And two, it was a changeup.

“[The April incident] was forgotten. He’d done his part, we’d done our part, it was over. Nothing. There was no ill-feeling or ill-will. It would be totally ignorant for us to hit him. We don’t play like that. We’re not like that. He got under a changeup and hit him in the helmet.”

Sparkman, too, said he was simply trying to go down and in with a changeup, and it got away. “I was trying to get a double play,” he said.

Sparkman said he had no interaction with Carlson, who told a pool reporter after the game: “We were aware of a previous situation between the two clubs involving Tim Anderson. When the pitcher threw the ball up and in and hit him in the head, that raises an awareness to us and we have to make a decision on what we want to do to handle that situation.

“I handled the situation in the moment the way I thought it needed to be handled. But then, ultimately, the league has to make a decision on [if it was intentional].”  

Right-hander Jorge Lopez, replaced in the rotation by Sparkman, relieved Sparkman after the ejection on Wednesday and kept the Royals close. Lopez gave up three runs in a five-run second inning, but then he slammed the door. Lopez went five innings, gave up three runs and struck out eight.

“[Jorge] Lopez was tremendous,” Yost said. “It took him a little while to get settled in, but eight punchouts. He did a phenomenal job. He struck out five in a row. Like I said earlier, I think he will really help us in the bullpen.”

The Royals, trailing, 7-1, got four in the sixth inning. Hunter Dozier doubled and Jorge Soler hit his career-high 13th home run.

Later in the inning, second baseman Nicky Lopez snapped a 0-for-20 with an RBI triple, and Whit Merrifield followed with an RBI single, his third hit of the game.

Kansas City tied it at 7 in the eighth off former Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera. Pinch-runner Terrance Gore and Billy Hamilton pulled off a double steal which set up Nicky Lopez’s two-run single to left.

The White Sox, though, pushed across a run in their eighth when James McCann doubled and scored on Anderson’s double.