A few clarifications in the wake of Tuesday night's dispute between the Angels and Yankees, sparked by Angel closer Troy Percival's ninth-inning, 0-and-2 fastball toward Derek Jeter's head that the New York shortstop blocked with his left hand.
Percival said he had never hit a Yankee with a pitch. Not true. The right-hander hit New York's Russ Davis on May 25, 1995, one of only 11 batters Percival has hit in 278 innings in five years.
Percival also said he was unaware of any "history" between him and the Yankees. He must not have recalled back-to-back outings against New York in September 1996.
An inside pitch to Paul O'Neill drew the ire of many Yankees, especially Mariano Duncan. The next night, Percival brushed back Duncan with an inside pitch, and the two exchanged heated words.
"It's a man's game," Percival said at the time, "if they're going to play like a bunch of crying babies, they can expect that [inside pitch]."
Percival is a fearless pitcher--it's a trait that has helped make him one of baseball's top closers--and that bravado rises rapidly to the surface in situations like Tuesday night.
"If my history [with them] is pitching inside, they can kiss my . . ." Percival said Wednesday. "I agree, I shouldn't throw at someone's head. I wasn't trying to. But if you want to call me a headhunter, heck, I've seen Pedro [Martinez] come up and in a heck of a lot more than me."
Percival also noticed a New York Post story that said his "smiling/smirking" after striking out Bernie Williams to preserve a 9-7 Angel victory contributed to the Yankees' rage.
"I just got a save against the Yankees, we've been losing, of course I'm going to smile," Percival said. "I got away with hitting a guy with their 3-4-5 batters coming up. I guess we're all supposed to buckle under to the New York Yankees. It's not gonna happen."
Angel pitching coach Dick Pole couldn't comprehend how the Yankees thought Percival was throwing at Jeter.
"We haven't won a game in a week, we've got a two-run lead against that lineup, and he's going to throw at someone?" Pole said. "C'mon."
Pole thought Tuesday night's incident was another example of how the balance of power in baseball has swung too far toward the hitters.
"They've let the game get out of hand," said Pole, a Red Sox pitcher in the 1970s. "Hitters have no regard for the inside part of the plate. I've seen guys get hit by pitches that were borderline strikes.
"They can stand there and look when they hit home runs, glare at the pitcher for throwing inside and try to intimidate you, and the pitchers can't do anything?"
Until the seventh inning Wednesday, the only Angel threat was in the third when Mo Vaughn singled with two out and, sore left ankle and all, lumbered around second and belly-flopped safely into third base on Garret Anderson's full-count single to center. But Yankee starter David Cone struck out Troy Glaus on three pitches to end the inning.
Vaughn started at designated hitter for the second consecutive game Wednesday night after acknowledging that playing first base has put too much pressure on his left ankle, which he sprained opening night.
"By the third inning I could barely stand on it," said Vaughn, who started five games at first Wednesday through Sunday. "That caused me to change my stance because I was fatigued.
"By DHing, I can go to the training room between at-bats, take some pressure off it and swing like I normally swing instead of trying to make up something."
Vaughn also said he no longer wants to talk about his ankle.
"No more excuses," Vaughn said. "I don't want to harp on it. I know I have a bad ankle, everyone knows it. Talking about it isn't going to make it better. When you see a big smile on my face, you'll know I'm better."
Lost amid the controversy Tuesday night was a brutal baserunning gaffe by Vaughn, who took off from first with one out and turned Todd Greene's eighth-inning sacrifice fly into a double play. Because Jeff Huson crossed the plate before the throw reached first, an important run counted, giving the Angels a 9-7 lead.
"It was a brain cramp," Vaughn said. "I was lucky the run scored, but that's definitely not what you want to do. When I get on base, I'm thinking about a lot of things. [The number of outs] was the one thing I wasn't thinking about, and that's probably the first thing I should be thinking about."
ANGELS' OMAR OLIVARES (3-3, 3.52 ERA)
YANKEES' HIDEKI IRABU (1-0, 5.23 ERA)
Yankee Stadium, New York, 4:30 PDT
TV--Fox Sports West.
Radio--KCTD (1540), KIK-FM (94.3), XPRS (1090)
* Update--Angel second baseman Randy Velarde, who missed five games because of a stiff lower back, returned to the starting lineup Wednesday night and played with a Velcro back brace. "There's a difference between discomfort and pain," Velarde said. "It doesn't feel great, but it's not like last week in Detroit when the pain was crippling. . . . I'm not going to embarrass myself or the team. If I didn't think I could play, I wouldn't."