Colorado Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki, second from left, and Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (30) are restrained by Indians catcher Lou Marson (6) and home plate umpire Clint Fagan after Jimenez hit Tulowitzki with a pitch during the first inning of a spring training baseball game on Sunday, April 1, 2012, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — His left elbow swollen and wrapped, Troy Tulowitzki felt confident that he’d be ready for opening day.
He wasn’t so certain whether former Colorado teammate Ubaldo Jimenez deliberately drilled him, putting the All-Star shortstop’s status in jeopardy.
Jimenez nailed Tulowitzki with the first pitch Sunday, carrying their festering feud onto the field and causing the Cleveland Indians and Rockies to clear the benches.
“You guys will have to talk to him and see if it was intentional or unintentional,” Tulowitzki said. “I didn’t expect anything and the emotions took over. A couple of words were exchanged but nothing more than that.”
Tulowitzki and Jimenez jawed up close, with the plate umpire and players on both sides holding them back from getting at each other. Tulowitzki was taken to a hospital for precautionary X-rays on his elbow, which were negative.
“From my take, as soon as he hit me it just seemed like he wanted a little more. That’s when the confrontation started,” Tulowitzki said. “I definitely wasn’t happy about being hit. I don’t think you ever are ... so it was back and forth. Not saying it was just him or me.”
Rockies manager Jim Tracy, however, called it “the most gutless act I’ve seen in 35 years in the game, that’s what I saw.”
“That’s exactly what I witnessed,” Tracy said. “He intentionally threw at him, he should be suspended. I’ll be very disappointed if he doesn’t get suspended because he deserves to be suspended.”
Jimenez said it was an accident.
“I don’t want to hurt him at all. Just one pitch that got away that could happen to anybody,” he said.
Jimenez recently told Foxsports.com that he was upset he didn’t receive a contract extension from Colorado, while Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez got new deals. Jimenez was traded to the Indians last summer.
Tulowitzki was later quoted by the Denver Post as basically saying Jimenez needs to get over his frustration and get on with his career.
“I never talked about anyone. The only thing I said was about how the team treated me. I didn’t mention anyone. I never mentioned any names,” Jimenez said.
Tulowitzki was hit in the first inning and left the game. The Indians initially said Jimenez would not be available for comment — later, he met the media during Cleveland’s 12-10 win.
“Of course I’m going to be sorry, he’s one of the superstar players in the game,” Jimenez said. “You don’t want to be in the position that you’re going to take the guy out of the game. He was my ex-teammate.”
The episode quickly escalated when they met on the diamond.
Jimenez immediately sprang off the mound after Tulowitzki was hit. Tulowitzki took a step toward Jimenez and said something to him, prompting the pitcher to say “Come on!” and motion the Colorado star to move forward.
Jimenez and Tulowitzki argued near the plate and the benches emptied, but there were no punches or ejections.
“It was the first inning and I didn’t have good control of my fastball. As you guys can see I walked the first guy on four pitches,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez said he’d never had a problem with Tulowitzki. The pitcher claimed the verbal confrontation grew after Tulowitzki called him a name.
“I take everything easy and I never look for any trouble, but if you call me out I’m going to be there. I’m a man like everybody else,” Jimenez said.
Indians manager Manny Acta said Jimenez “was pretty wild all day” with his pitches.
“I don’t know if there is any history there or not,” he said. “They were teammates for like, forever.”
“I was thinking it’s kind of late to be doing stuff like that. You don’t want to see anybody get hurt. You don’t want to see a player like that get hurt and you sure don’t want to get into a fight and get players hurt, either,” he said.
Acta added: “It was a natural reaction by players. Manhood, man! Nobody wants to back down.”
Tracy put all the blame on Jimenez.
“Five days before opening day, you’re going to take a pot shot like that? It’s the worst I’ve ever seen. I’ve lost all respect for him, and that’s a very difficult thing for me to say with all the players I’ve had to manage over the years,” Tracy said. “I’ve lost all respect for him, every bit.”
Tracy referenced last season, when the Rockies held the NL West lead going into mid-May despite Jimenez going winless in his first nine starts.
“Knowing what I know, knowing what took place last year, and where this team was at going into the second month of the season and doing what we did and he was nowhere to be found at the time ... I’ve lost all respect for him,” Tracy said.
NOTES: Jimenez gave up six runs on four hits and five walks in 4 1-3 innings. ... Travis Hafner and Shelley Duncan hit grand slam as Cleveland ended a 10-game losing streak. Hafner connected in the first off Colorado opening day starter Jeremy Guthrie and Duncan homered in the seventh. ... Tyler Colvin hit two long homer and singled twice to drive in six runs. ... Indians All-Star SS Asdrubal Cabrera is near to signing a new contract that will add two years and be worth $16.5 million.