Centre fielder remains steadfast in defence of Bautista
By Alykhan Ravjiani
TORONTO -- A day removed from the Blue Jays and Rangers fracas in Texas, outfielder Kevin Pillar reflected on the events that occurred in Toronto's 7-6 loss, and was quick to come to the defense of his teammate and right fielder Jose Bautista.
Pillar was the first one out of the dugout during Sunday's initial bench-clearing incident, after Rougned Odor punched Bautista in the face, and went straight at the Rangers second baseman. The Blue Jays centre fielder said the team did what it needed to do to back their teammate.
"I think everyone in this clubhouse came to the defence of Bautista," Pillar said. "You don't want to see it escalate to that extent, but in the heat of the moment you have to do what you feel is right. You have to go out there and defend yourself and defend your teammates. Given the circumstances, I felt like he was owed one, and I was going out there to get him."
The skirmish started when Bautista, who had reached base on a hit-by-pitch from right-hander Matt Bush, slid hard through the second base bag on a forceout from Justin Smoak, making contact with Odor. While the slide was deemed a violation of MLB's new rule and Bautista as well as Smoak were called out, Odor took exception and landed a blow to Bautista's face.
"It's very surprising," Pillar said of Odor's punch. "This team [the Blue Jays] has been in a couple of baseball scuffles in the postseason last year, especially in our series against the Royals where there was a lot of pushing and shoving and talking. But when that punch was thrown, especially to a guy who's not expecting it because that stuff is out of the ordinary at a baseball game, your mindset changes."
The dugouts once again cleared in the bottom of the inning, when Toronto reliever Jesse Chavez hit Prince Fielder with a first-pitch fastball. Chavez received an immediate ejection from the game, as warnings had already been issued after Bush's initial plunking of Bautista.
"Looking back on it now, you wish none of it happened," Pillar said. "You wish they could have said some words to each other after the slide and that could have been the end of it. Bautista said it best, baseball plays should be settled with baseball plays."
Alykhan Ravjiani is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.