La Russa argues with MLB's Watson

Updated: October 20, 2004, 5:07 PM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa angrily confronted baseball disciplinarian Bob Watson on Wednesday, right after finding out St. Louis reliever Julian Tavarez was fined $10,000 for throwing over the head of a Houston hitter.

The animated argument took place behind the batting cage at Busch Stadium as the Cardinals hit before Game 6 of the NL championship series.

La Russa shouted, pointed and gestured. St. Louis general manager Walt Jocketty joined in, and later shooed away a television cameraman trying to film the dispute.

"I'm not saying anything about it until we've talked to Major League Baseball," Jocketty said.

Tavarez was fined Tuesday for zinging a fastball over Jeff Bagwell's helmet in Game 4. The pitch came a batter after Carlos Beltran hit a go-ahead home run off Tavarez.

When the inning ended, the righty reliever broke his left hand when he punched a bullpen phone during a dugout tantrum.

Tavarez's status for the rest of the NLCS was uncertain. The players' union had not filed an appeal on his behalf by gametime Wednesday.

La Russa was caught off-guard when asked about the fine Wednesday.

"Who said it's true?" he said. "I can't believe it's true."

Told it was so, La Russa was not happy.

"This guy didn't get even warned. He didn't get ejected, did he? They think it was intent, he would have been banged out of the game," La Russa said.

"You talk about precedent, so when a ball is thrown in that area, gets away, $10,000 for now on?" he said. "They're going to go back and nail guys. I mean, that is so ridiculous."

Watson, baseball's vice president of on-field operations, said the fine was similar to what Pedro Martinez got last year when he threw a pitch over the head of Karim Garcia in the ALCS between Boston and the Yankees.

Tavarez was fined "for intentionally throwing in the head area of Jeff Bagwell. The umpire said he threw at him intentionally," Watson said.

Watson declined to comment on his talk with La Russa.

Tavarez has been suspended and fined several times in the past, for conduct both on and off the field.

In Like A Lamb
Astros manager Phil Garner made one lineup change for Game 6, replacing starting third baseman Morgan Ensberg with Mike Lamb.

Lamb hit .288 with career highs of 14 homers and 58 RBIs during the season, filling in mostly when Ensberg was sidelined by back spasms late in the season.

"Lamb has played a big role in what our club has done the last couple months," Garner said. "Morgan was doing well. I just like to get Lamb in and get him some at-bats and get him into a ballgame and see what he can do."

Garner also has to like Lamb's track record against St. Louis starter Matt Morris this season.

Lamb went 4-for-10 with three homers and four RBIs against Morris, while Ensberg had only one at-bat against him.

"I think Mike's done very well against Morris," Ensberg said. "I understand the move."

Lamb had a pinch-hit homer in Game 1 of the NLCS. He later missed two games to be with his wife for the birth of their son, Andrew.

Status Quo
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa resisted the temptation to juggle his lineup for Game 6.

La Russa considered moving slumping Edgar Renteria, who was 1-for-17 in the NLCS and had been chasing pitches on the outside corner, to leadoff to make him focus more. The manager also thought about benching left fielder Reggie Sanders, who had been 1-for-14.

Ultimately, he stuck with the status quo.

"The guys that are hitting two, three, four and five are getting base hits," La Russa said. "I mean, I don't think you should mess with that too much.

"I know Reggie has one hit in this series but in Game 5 he had the best swings. So, he'll rise to the occasion."

La Russa said he wouldn't mind leadoff man Tony Womack swinging early in the count more to throw off Astros starter Pete Munro. Womack has consistently taken the first strike in the NLCS.

"I think he could mix up his game, swing early," La Russa said. "That way they don't throw fastball, strike."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press