Hillenbrand cut after criticizing Jays front office

Updated: July 20, 2006, 8:29 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

TORONTO -- Shea Hillenbrand was cut by the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night after he was chastised during a team meeting and he refused to sit in the dugout with his teammates.

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Toronto Blue Jays

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Hours before, Hillenbrand criticized the organization and said he expected to be traded. The designated hitter and corner infielder was upset because he wasn't in the starting lineup for the second consecutive game and nobody in Toronto's front office congratulated him on adopting a baby girl last weekend.

The Blue Jays held a meeting before Wednesday night's 5-4 loss to Texas. Hillenbrand, reached by The Toronto Star during the game, said manager John Gibbons admonished him in front of the team.

"Gibby called a team meeting and then he stood up and reamed me out in front of my teammates," Hillenbrand told the newspaper. "I'm very disappointed about what he did and I find it very unprofessional."

Hillenbrand was designated for assignment during the game and was not in the locker room afterward.

"It will do wonders for the clubhouse," Gibbons said.

General manager J.P. Ricciardi cited irrevocable differences and said: "His version of events are different from ours."

"From the beginning of the season, there were times when I wasn't playing and there would be no justifiable excuse," Hillenbrand told The Toronto Star. "He said that if I had a problem with the team or what was going on, I should come into the manager's office and talk to him.

"But then, he would get mad at me when I did that and accuse me of being a selfish player."

Hillenbrand was batting .301 with 12 homers, 15 doubles and 39 RBI. The Blue Jays have 10 days to trade, release or send him outright to the minors.

With the trade deadline approaching July 31, Hillenbrand figured to draw interest from at least a couple of contending teams looking for offense.

"I love my teammates here, but I'm waiting to be traded," Hillenbrand said during a profanity-filled tirade before the game. "I should have been traded two months ago."

Hillenbrand, who will turn 31 next week, left the team last Friday to be with his family for the adoption and didn't return until Tuesday.

"They are making me feel like I did something wrong," Hillenbrand said.

He added that he should have just stayed home, and the team should trade him if it's not going to play him.

"They wonder why they are not winning," Hillenbrand said. "It's the atmosphere."

The Blue Jays (52-42) are in third place in the AL East. The second-place New York Yankees visit Toronto for an important four-game series starting Thursday.

Ricciardi said Hillenbrand's dismissal had nothing to do with his family absence.

"No one is bigger than the organization," the GM said.

The Blue Jays have been short-handed this week because of Hillenbrand's absence and injuries to slugger Troy Glaus and right fielder Alex Rios.

Hillenbrand's locker was empty after the game.

The move shocked Hillenbrand's teammates.

Right-hander Casey Janssen called it crazy and catcher Gregg Zaun said he didn't see it coming.

"It's just weird, but obviously they felt like it had to be done. I stand by their decision," outfielder Frank Catalanotto said.

Team leader Vernon Wells said Hillenbrand took the news hard.

"Normally, you see Shea with a smile on his face and joking around," Wells said. "It was hard for a lot of us to take. It's just something you don't see that often. I know it hit me hard."

When Hillenbrand and his wife, Jessica, applied to adopt a child in June, they figured the season would be over by the time they received any news. But they were matched quickly with a woman who gave birth last Friday.

"Not one person from the front office has even come up to congratulate me," he said. "It's all the little people like you guys. But nobody from higher up. That's a disgrace."

Hillenbrand flew to California last weekend and stayed there to fill out the necessary paperwork. He said he was "very surprised" he wasn't in the starting lineup for the second consecutive day Wednesday.

"He hasn't played in four days and we like the lineup we have in there," Gibbons said before Hillenbrand's outburst.

Hillenbrand pleaded to stay with the Blue Jays in late May when reports surfaced about a possible trade to the Los Angeles Angels for second baseman Adam Kennedy.

Hillenbrand, a six-year veteran, was traded to the Blue Jays by Arizona before last season.

There has been increased pressure on Toronto to win this year after general manager J.P. Ricciardi spent millions to acquire A.J. Burnett, B.J. Ryan, Glaus, Bengie Molina and Lyle Overbay in the offseason.

Ricciardi chastised the Blue Jays just before the All-Star break, saying his 3-4-5 hitters were killing the club. Wells objected to the comments when asked about them at the All-Star game.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.