Jays' Zaun doesn't want any part of Hillenbrand mess
A day after Hillenbrand called the Blue Jays' second-string catcher the "self-described team leader" during a radio interview, Zaun fired back.
"You want to drag me into it? Not a very wise thing to do," Zaun said Friday.
Hillenbrand was designated for assignment during Wednesday's game after writing "play for yourself" on a board the Blue Jays use to post batting practice times. He later wrote the "ship was sinking" before manager John Gibbons challenged him to a fight during a team meeting.
"In our players' meeting I did tell the entire group, 'Do not let your personality be dictated by whether or not you're in the lineup every day,'" Zaun said.
On Friday night, Hillenbrand was dealt to the San Francisco Giants.
Hillenbrand was unhappy with his role as Toronto's primary designated hitter and hated being left out of the starting lineup 11 times this season.
Hillenbrand also was upset because he felt the Blue Jays were not sensitive that he needed several days to complete the adoption of a baby girl on the West Coast over the weekend. The DH and corner infielder was not in the starting lineup when he returned.
Zaun said he confronted Hillenbrand about writing "play for yourself" and later erased the message.
"I didn't think it was productive. We have young, impressionable minds on this ballclub. They look to veterans for leadership and example and I confronted him," Zaun said.
Zaun denied telling Gibbons about the message.
"I'm not a tattletale. I'm not a rat," he said.
Zaun said he pleaded with Hillenbrand this season to accept his role.
"I asked him, 'Please for the good of the team put your feelings aside and embrace this situation and understand that we need you on the field. You're a great hitter. You're going to get your reps at third; you're going to get your reps at first,'" Zaun said.
"Maybe he's afraid that he's going to be pigeonholed as a guy that can only hit. It's just not true. What difference does it make that it's going to be one year or not. He's going to be a free agent at the end of the year. If he decides he doesn't ever want to DH again, you know what, limit your choices to the National League teams."
Hillenbrand was batting .301 with 12 homers, 15 doubles and 39 RBI.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press