Tigers manager Jim Leyland learned of Grilli's comments, which in part said the clubhouse "atmosphere was stale and stagnant" after the team lost such players as Sean Casey and Brandon Inge from the starting lineup. Leyland fired back Tuesday by criticizing Grilli's performance before his April 30 trade to the Rockies for Minor League right-hander Zach Simons and said the problem is "between the lines," not in the clubhouse.
Grilli said he had not read the USA Today story in which he was quoted, and said he was dismayed at the retort of his former manager, whose team is last in the American League Central after entering the season with a $130 million-plus payroll and lofty expectations.
"To get comments from Leyland thinking that I was bashing the Tigers is not what I was saying," Grilli said before Tuesday night's game against the Giants. "It's pretty interesting because I try to stay fair and objective in my statements. I'm very cautious in what I say. I'm not the GM. I'm not the manager. I don't know everything.
"All I was simply saying was I was asked to make a comment about where the Tigers were. I was there for the whole experience, from the end of '05 to when I got traded over here. All I was basically saying was the balance and the camaraderie and stuff that I saw in '06 slowly faded out. That's basically in a nutshell summarizing it."
Here are Grilli's original comments, from the Detroit Free Press Web site, but credited to USA Today:
"It seems like they kind of broke up our team chemistry when they got rid of Sean Casey and good people like that. You wanted guys like that around. You wanted a guy like Inge playing behind you, knowing he would go through a brick wall.
"Talent-wise on paper, that is one of the greatest teams assembled, but the atmosphere was stale and stagnant. You kept losing, losing and losing, and everybody became distant. I have good friends over there, and I feel badly for them."
Leyland expressed anger at Grilli during his press conference before Tuesday night's game against the Mariners.
"I think it's diversionary tactics, and I really take offense to Jason Grilli's thing about not having Sean Casey," Leyland said. "You have to be kidding me. I mean, please. Jason Grilli ought to just worry about Colorado. Jason Grilli's not here any longer because Jason Grilli didn't pitch good under pressure situations and didn't pitch very well in Detroit. You want to tell it like it is? When players want to start talking, I'll start talking.
"But I'm very reserved about stuff like that. Jason Grilli ought to worry about Colorado, not Detroit."
Leyland added, "We're stagnant between the lines. The clubhouse hasn't changed a bit. We come to the clubhouse and do everything we've always done in the clubhouse."
Grilli, who is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 9 1/3 innings since the trade and has become a key part of the Rockies' late-game bullpen plan, said he isn't interested in becoming an enemy of Leyland. He was 0-1 with a 3.29 ERA in 32 1/3 innings before the trade, and will return to Comerica Park when the Rockies play there June 26-29.
"I wasn't throwing anybody under the bus," Grilli said. "I love everybody over there. I've never had a problem or an issue with any teammate or any coaching staff over there. I'm not here to start a verbal war in the paper just because I'm with a different team, the grass-is-greener-over-here type of thing."