Joe Maddon, Chase Headley exchange words on ‘grazed’ issue

Chase Headley was struck in the face by a pitch when the Yankees hosted the Rays last week.

Kathy Willens/ASSOCIATED PRESS

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Joe Maddon’s choice to use "grazed" in his postgame remarks Tuesday when referring to Tampa Bay Rays reliever Jake McGee hitting New York Yankees infielder Chase Headley on the chin last Thursday apparently touched a nerve.

Maddon, the Rays’ manager, brought up Headley in the aftermath of Tampa Bay reliever Steve Geltz clipping New York shortstop Derek Jeter on the left hand in the top of the eighth inning Tuesday at Tropicana Field. Last week at Yankee Stadium, McGee hit Headley with a 98-mph fastball in the bottom of the ninth.

Headley bled under his chin, but he walked off the field on his own power. He missed four games at Baltimore from last Friday to Sunday, but he returned against the Rays on Monday. Headley has bruised areas on his neck from the draining blood, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi said some blood has drained into Headley’s chest.

"We don’t want to hit Derek," Maddon said Tuesday. "I’m so happy Headley’s fine after getting grazed in the chin. I was very happy that he was back and playing again."

Wednesday, Headley wasn’t pleased with Maddon’s statement.

"I was pretty lucky the way that it turned out," Headley said. "I wasn’t thrilled when I saw them (Maddon’s comments). I can tell you what the doctor said and want I went through. (The doctor) said it was a miracle that my jaw didn’t shatter.

"I don’t need him to explain himself. You can watch the video and make your own adjective. It could be construed as minimalizing what happened. If Evan Longoria got hit like that, or Ben Zobrist or one of their guys, he wouldn’t have said it.

"I’ve got a lot of color, only some of which you can see. This is not a pity party. I’m not looking for an apology, that’s not it. It’s more than a graze."

When asked about Headley’s reaction, Maddon offered an apology. Still, he didn’t stray far from his comment Tuesday.

"I was really happy that he wasn’t hit flush," Maddon said. "If he was, he wouldn’t have been playing yesterday. It’s all about semantics. The whole world is about semantics — how you choose your words, the meanings of the words, et cetera. If he’s offended by the word ‘grazed,’ I apologize for that. I didn’t mean it in any lack of respect or way. My point was I was happy he was not hit more squarely and hurt on a more permanent basis like, for instance, what happened to (Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo) Stanton more recently. So again, when it comes down to a battle of semantics, I’m always into semantics. I love the dictionary. I love vocabulary. And if I offended him by using the wrong word, my point was the fact that he was not hurt more seriously."

Heating up

Later, Maddon was asked how he would choose to rephrase his comment.

"Hit in the chin," he said. "Again, for me, my whole point was the fact that he was not hurt seriously. That’s what I was trying to get across."

Geltz, meanwhile, considered Tuesday’s incident over. Girardi was critical after the game of what he viewed as lack of control by Rays’ pitchers when throwing inside. Geltz wasn’t concerned.

"We’re not machines," Geltz said Wednesday. "You can’t just guarantee that if you put a glove there, you’re going to hit it every time. We’re humans. We make mistakes. I had him 0-2, and I overthrew a ball, and it took off and nicked his hand. It was a mistake, an honest mistake. It’s baseball."

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.