Rays united behind Johnson
Manager Maddon maintains Saturday's collision was fair play
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Rays manager Joe Maddon has said that as far as he is concerned, any controversy stemming from Saturday's home plate collision between Rays prospect Elliot Johnson and Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli is over.
"They made their point, we made our counterpoint," said the Rays manager. "And I stand by what we said. And now it's time to just play the games. Rhetoric is really not how you play any particular sport."
On Saturday afternoon, Yankees manager Joe Girardi criticized the Rays for the play that fractured Cervelli's right wrist. The play occurred in the Rays' 4-1 victory at Legends Field, when Johnson tried to score on a Willy Aybar double to left field. Johnson lowered his shoulder and tried to jar the ball loose from Cervelli, who was guarding the plate as the relay throw came in. Since then, the play has continued to generate interest among the media.
Maddon has maintained the play was just hard-nosed baseball, and feels that in the court of popular opinion, most baseball fans would agree.
"I think that in our country, there are very baseball savvy people and they are making up their own minds in regard to this," Maddon said. "Hype or not hype. It's just a baseball play. And I think everyone will determine what they believe. That's all.
"And again, [the Yankees] made their point, we made our point. In the beginning it was more hyped up then it should have been, I thought. At this point, let's move it along. ... It's not really going to impact what we do on a daily basis."
Given the media hype, first baseman Carlos Pena said it is tough to know who said what, etc.
"I don't read the newspapers that much, but you kind of hear what's going on," Pena said. "There have been a couple of collisions at the plate, so I can understand why there's been some complaining. But objectively, looking at the situation, if you're running and trying to score, and there's no space for me to slide, what are you supposed to do?"
Rays players have not backed away from the controversy and have continued to stand behind Johnson, which could be viewed as a growth moment for the young team.
"I've loved the way our guys have reacted greatly during this entire moment," Maddon said. "It's good for us. It's a good thing."
Veteran right-hander Dan Wheeler also believes the incident could be viewed as a moment of growth for the team.
"I think so," Wheeler said. "Like Joe mentioned, it doesn't matter which day it is, March 8, or June 8, hopefully Oct. 8, you want to play the game a certain way, and that's the way we're trying to do that right now."
The Rays will host the Yankees on Wednesday afternoon in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest at Progress Energy Park, home of Al Lang Field.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.