D-backs' executive La Russa defends club

Arizona's chief baseball officer believes team is being unfairly criticized

D-backs' executive La Russa defends club

PHOENIX -- D-backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa thinks his team is getting a bad rap from the national media when it comes to hitting batters.

The D-backs were under fire nationally after Randall Delgado plunked the Pirates Andrew McCutchen on Saturday in apparent retaliation for the Pirates hitting Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt on Friday.

Goldschmidt fractured his left hand and is out for the rest of the season. McCutchen was hit in the middle of his back and was in the starting lineup Sunday, but wound up leaving that game after suffering a fracture of his left 11th rib, which is the second rib from the bottom.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he did not believe that McCutchen's injury was related to being hit by the Delgado pitch the day before.

"I was just sick to my stomach when I saw Paul got hit," La Russa said. "I was bothered when McCutchen got hit. I was bothered by it because I dislike that part of the game."

La Russa said the issue is how some teams, the Pirates being one of them, have embraced the philosophy of pitching up and in to get hitters out. That can lead to incidents like what happened with Goldschmidt.

"So what's happened is some teams have developed this idea that they can pitch in and up," La Russa said. "Well it's got rewards because I don't care if you're a right-hander or left-hander, that spot right there, nobody gets to that pitch. So it's a hole for everybody. The problem is, unless you have Greg Maddux pitching, that's a very risky area to throw in."

Risky because it leads to more hit batters and as a result, opposing teams then will pitch to the same area.

"And I don't judge because if that's the way you want to pitch, you need to understand with those rewards it comes with risks," La Russa said. "So for those teams that are really featuring that style of finishing a hitter or setup the outside pitch by throwing the ball up and in, the other team that sees that they say, 'Wait a minute, we're going to throw the ball in more often.' So those teams the risk they face is that they get pitched in more often."

The D-backs are especially sensitive to pitchers missing in that area having watched Aaron Hill, A.J. Pollock and Goldschmidt each suffer broken hands over the past two seasons after getting hit.

The pitch that broke Hill's hand last year was thrown by Pittsburgh's James McDonald. The Pirates lead the National League in hitting batters with 61.

"That to me is what's surprising and upsetting about how shortsighted this criticism is," La Russa said. "Here's a team that's lost three hitters -- Hill, Pollock and Goldschmidt -- with broken bones. Those pitches should never be thrown up there, never."

Last year's high profile fracas with the Dodgers and a back and forth with the Brewers earlier this year are cited by some as the D-backs being prone to these type of incidents, but La Russa took issue with that.

"I'm sitting there and I hear Arizona is always in the middle of this," La Russa said. "Is that right? Here's Arizona, number of hit batsmen by our pitchers -- 32. 32. Here are some of the other ones in the league, you've got 47s, you've got 48s, 42s, 38s. Now does 32 sound to you like a team that's hitting people? How many of these have we had? A couple, three? You want to start doing your research and see the number of teams that have had issues with each other. Just do the research. If you want to be fair. I don't see where the Diamondbacks should catch all this [flak] they're catching."

That Goldschmidt was hit with the Pirates leading by five runs in the ninth inning and where he was hit, La Russa said, makes it worse.

"I've heard a lot about McCutchen getting hit, but I haven't seen nearly as much about Goldschmidt, who isn't going to play the rest of the season," La Russa said. "I think, wait a minute, five runs down in the ninth and this guy's lost and he's every bit the player that McCutchen is. They're in contention, but that makes no difference. There's a big difference between getting hit here [in the hands] and getting hit here [in the back]. That's why I think it's unfair. I think it will continue to be unfair because I don't think this message will get out. It's not a popular response, so they'll just dismiss it."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.