WEDNESDAY: Crick told Nubyjas Wilborn of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other reporters that Vazquez threw the first punch. Vazquez didn’t comment, per Wilborn, who adds that the closer had “noticeable swelling and bandages” on his nose.
TUESDAY: Pirates relievers Felipe Vazquez and Kyle Crick engaged in a clubhouse fight Monday, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reports. Crick came out of it requiring season-ending tendon surgery in his right index finger, the team announced. The club also fined him and Vazquez.
“The behavior exhibited by these two players last night is unacceptable, inconsistent with the standards expected of a Major League player and will not be tolerated by the organization,” general manager Neal Huntington stated (via Nightengale).
This isn’t the first hint of behind-the-scenes tension in what has degenerated into an awful season for the Pirates. Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reported in mid-August that in-fighting had been all too common for the club this year. Yet another reliever, Keone Kela, has been a prominent source of tension for Pittsburgh – which has plummeted out of the NL playoff race as the season has gone on and now owns a horrid 63-81 record.
As with Kela, Crick has also been involved in multiple dust-ups this season with members of his own organization. He previously feuded with bullpen coach Euclides Rojas over the alleged preferential treatment the latter gave Vazquez. Now, thanks to his apparent disdain for Vazquez, Crick won’t pitch again until 2020. Whether he’ll take the mound again as a Pirate is unclear, as the club could attempt to move him if it doesn’t believe he and Vazquez (a potential trade chip in his own right) can coexist. While Vazquez is among the best relievers in baseball, Crick struggled to a 4.96 ERA/5.95 FIP and walked upward of six batters per nine across 49 innings in 2019.
It also may be fair to wonder whether the friction in the Pirates’ clubhouse, not to mention their uninspired on-field performance, will have negative ramifications for Huntington and-or manager Clint Hurdle. The franchise was plenty successful under the pair a few years back, evidenced by its postseason berths from 2013-15, but has fallen from grace since that three-year stretch. The bickering Pirates are now on their way to a fourth straight season without a playoff appearance.