Lilly-Gibbons confrontation leads to 'mayhem' in tunnel

Updated: August 22, 2006, 9:39 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons tangled with Toronto pitcher Ted Lilly near the dugout during Monday night's game against Oakland.

AP Photo/Aaron HarrisLilly (left) reacts negatively as manager Gibbons tries to take him out of the game in the third inning on Monday night.
Unconfirmed reports said that Gibbons suffered a bloody nose during the exchange.

After the game, Lilly said to reporters, "There were no punches thrown, so I don't think John had a bloody nose. I don't know how that would have happened."

Lilly was pulled in the third inning, when the Athletics scored seven runs to close to 8-7 on the way to a 12-10 win. Gibbons chewed out the pitcher, who refused to give him the ball.

When Lilly left the mound for the locker room, Gibbons followed him. A team trainer and a number of players then ran down the stairs. Cameramen near the dugout saw Gibbons push Lilly first.

Canadian Press photographer Aaron Harris, one of a handful of photographers to witness the skirmish, said Lilly was waiting for Gibbons in the tunnel leading to the clubhouse.

"Gibbons just went at him," Harris said. "It looked like Gibbons grabbed him and they disappeared. Then the whole dugout emptied back there. It was mayhem down in the tunnel."

A television camera later showed Gibbons and the trainer wipe the manager's nose with a towel.

"I overreacted, no question about that," Gibbons said Tuesday during his weekly radio appearance on Fan 590. "I'm not proud of that. That's not who I am. But I am a passionate guy. ... It should never get to that point, but it did happen. I can't run from that, I can't make excuses. I've got to live with it now.''

Lilly confirmed that the situation escalated quickly.

"We were on the verge of something regrettable happening. We were yelling at each other face to face," he said.

Interviewed after the game, Gibbons declined to give details of the incident but said, "We've hashed all that out."

"He thought he should have been left in the game," Gibbons said of Lilly. "I didn't think so."

Lilly said that his manager was not happy with how he was throwing.

"At a time I was already upset with myself, I didn't handle it well at the time. It wasn't very good, but this thing could have gone over a little better if I would have held my emotions."

Gibbons challenged Shea Hillenbrand to a fight in July after the infielder wrote on the clubhouse bulletin board that the "ship was sinking." Hillenbrand declined to fight, and was later traded to San Francisco.

Hillenbrand had only kind words about Lilly when asked about the altercation after the Giants' 5-0 win over Arizona in San Francisco.

"Ted Lilly's a great guy. Ted Lilly's an intense competitor," Hillenbrand said. "He was a great teammate when I was over there. So I'm surprised that confrontation happened with Ted Lilly."

He added: "Stuff like that's been going on all season over there. I had my issues with the manager. ... They say I'm the cancer of the team and things are still happening, so I don't know how you can make that assumption or that statement. Things like that begin to come out when times get tough."

Lilly has thought about his tenure with the team.

"Who knows how long I have left here," said Lilly, who is eligible for free agency after this season. "Maybe a month. Maybe longer. It was a bad day. I embarrassed the organization."

Team president Paul Godfrey didn't think Gibbons or Lilly needed discipline. General manager J.P. Ricciardi didn't make himself available.

"My opinion is that it's a one-night skirmish," Godfrey said. "I don't see any need for discipline. Ted and the manager worked it out between them."

Oakland's Eric Chavez, who played with Lilly in Oakland, was surprised.

"It's a little strange to seen that happen," he said. "I liked Ted. He was a good teammate when he was here."

Blue Jays outfielder Vernon Wells tried to downplay the brawl.

"Two guys were upset," he said. "It happens at home and it happens here. That's life. You just have to deal with it."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.