By Mike Fitzpatrick, NEW YORK, AP
In a strange sequence Saturday, Akinori Iwamura and Alex Rodriguez had their bats confiscated by umpires during Tampa Bay’s game against the New York Yankees.
First, Yankees manager Joe Torre asked if Iwamura’s unusual model, featuring a flat end rather than a rounded one, was legal. Not to be outdone, Devil Rays skipper Joe Maddon asked the umps to examine Rodriguez’s bat an inning later.
Both confiscated bats were sent to the commissioner’s office for inspection.
The ruckus started Saturday with Iwamura batting for the Devil Rays with two outs in the second inning. With runners at first and second and the count 2-2, Torre came out of the dugout for a discussion with plate umpire Kerwin Danley that lasted a couple of minutes.
“That’s the only thing I asked the umpires, was to check the bat. I was just curious,” Torre said. “I wasn’t questioning his player. I was just questioning the bat. Because I had never seen one severed like that.
“I didn’t accuse anybody, I just asked the question. Are you allowed to do that?” the manager added. “I hate to do this. … I’m sort of embarrassed to do that.”
First-base umpire Doug Eddings confiscated Iwamura’s red bat, which was taken into the umpires’ room down the hall from New York’s clubhouse.
Iwamura went back up to the plate with a shiny new bat — same model — and struck out swinging on the next pitch. The rookie from Japan was allowed to use that model for the rest of the game, which New York won 9-6.
When Rodriguez stepped to the plate in the third with a runner on second and one out, Maddon came out of the dugout for a chat with Danley. A Rod’s bat was promptly confiscated and taken to the umpires’ room as well.
“Joe Maddon contends that there is something inside the bat that alters the distance of the ball. He also is entitled to a challenge by rule so we also honored his request,” crew chief Dana DeMuth explained.
Maddon said he was just retaliating.
“There’s nothing wrong with Alex Rodriguez. He’s a great player. It was tit-for-tat entirely,” Maddon said. “I said, ‘It’s an illegal bat.’ I said, ‘I can’t see inside it, but there might be something inside that bat. I don’t have X-ray vision. He’s got 45 home runs, it’s Sept. 1.’ That was my argument.”
Using another bat, Rodriguez singled to left field. He also hit his 45th homer in the first inning and a two-run double in the fourth.
Rodriguez laughed the whole thing off.
“I thought it was funny,” he said. “I hope I get it back. I like that bat.”