White Sox, Tigers defend actions in wake of accusations

Ventura responds to Ausmus' comments about Sale, V-Mart

White Sox, Tigers defend actions in wake of accusations

CHICAGO -- Brad Ausmus, Robin Ventura, Chris Sale and the prospect of an unknown man stealing signs for Victor Martinez via binoculars at Comerica Park on Wednesday afternoon have added fuel to an already intense American League Central rivalry between the White Sox and Tigers as the 2014 season comes to a close.

Ausmus said after his club's 6-1 victory Wednesday that it was "a little weak" for Sale to hit Martinez with a pitch in the left shoulder during the sixth inning, eventually leading to words being exchanged between the two and both benches and bullpens emptying. The Tigers manager also accused Sale of hitting Martinez intentionally.

During Thursday's pregame interview session, Ventura answered Ausmus' comments in defense of his ace hurler with as much force and pointed commentary as he's shown during his three years in charge of the White Sox.

"I know Chris is not weak. I know that," Ventura said. "I know if anything, he's not weak and we don't do weak things. And Chris doesn't do weak things. [Ausmus] should probably worry about his own team and investigate a little more in his own team. Don't worry about my team."

Ventura admitted that he was agitated by Ausmus' comments and that he shouldn't say anything "unless you get all the information."

What information could Ausmus be missing? It looks to be a string of events that caused the White Sox to believe Martinez, who is 15-for-29 lifetime against the AL ERA leader, was getting help with pitches.

In the first inning Wednesday, with Ian Kinsler on second and two outs, Ventura made a rare early visit to the mound. Sale threw two pitches outside of the zone and then intentionally walked Martinez.

Martinez stepped to the plate in the third with runners on first and second and two outs, and struck out swinging. On the last fastball to Martinez, catcher Tyler Flowers set up inside but the deciding pitch landed high and away. That pitch sequence followed two visits to the mound by Flowers and Sale taking a couple of looks back toward center. After the strikeout, Sale turned toward right-center field and tipped his cap. That was followed by a wave in the same general direction.

During the argument in the sixth, Sale appeared to reference Martinez's "guy out there," and Martinez said after the game that White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia told his one-time teammate during the scrum that the White Sox suspected sign stealing. Sale claimed postgame Wednesday that his hat tip was to a fan who was wearing him out during his pregame bullpen session, but Sale was unavailable for comment prior to Thursday's contest. The left-hander was excused by the team for the game for personal reasons.

The buzz over this situation never made its way to Ausmus, who admitted Thursday he was just speaking honestly postgame. He has not heard from anyone on the White Sox and didn't seem to believe Sale's reasoning for the hit by pitch, in that a fastball he was trying to get inside got away.

"Oh, well, that's how it goes in baseball. When you hit somebody, you always deny it," Ausmus said. "When he's pointing towards center field and then he's making binocular signs to the dugout, I think that's pretty obvious."

Detroit has the playoffs to focus on, while the White Sox have the offseason ahead of them. Ventura said he's done talking about the matter. Ausmus, meanwhile, was perplexed by this particular accusation.

"I've never heard of someone stealing signs from a fan with binoculars in center field," Ausmus said. "The only time I've ever heard of binoculars being used were in bullpens that were in center field. I can't say that I've ever seen it, but I've heard that it has happened.

"Victor, I think he's hitting 20 points higher on the road, so apparently he's got a small army of people with binoculars. I thought the whole thing was kind of ridiculous."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.