5:57 pm: Duffey has agreed to a reduced two-game suspension, Betsy Helfand of the St. Paul Pioneer Press was among those to relay (Twitter link). He’ll sit out the second game of today’s doubleheader and tomorrow’s contest against the Indians.
4:38 pm: Major League Baseball announced that Twins reliever Tyler Duffey has been suspended for three games and fined an undisclosed amount for “intentionally throwing a pitch behind Yermín Mercedes of the Chicago White Sox during the top of the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game at Target Field.” Duffey has elected to appeal his suspension, so he remains active pending the appeals process. Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli was suspended for one game and fined for the incident. Baldelli will serve his suspension during the nightcap of today’s doubleheader with the Angels.
It’s the latest development in the strange unwritten rules saga that has transpired between Chicago and Minnesota over the past few days. With the White Sox leading the Twins 15-4 in the top of the ninth on Monday night, Mercedes stepped in to hit against Minnesota utilityman Willians Astudillo, who had been called on to pitch a mop-up inning. On a 3-0 count, Mercedes swung at a 47.1 MPH Astudillo offering and hit a home run to center field.
After the game, Chicago manager Tony La Russa called out his own player, saying Mercedes made a “big mistake” swinging at the pitch (via Jesse Rogers of ESPN). “I was upset because that’s not a time to swing 3-0. I knew the Twins knew I was upset,” La Russa told reporters. … “He missed a 3-0 take sign. With that kind of lead, that’s just sportsmanship and respect for your opponent. … There will be a consequence he has to endure here within our family. It’s a learning experience.”
Mercedes, though, was publicly backed by a few of his teammates. Chicago starter Lance Lynn commented on the situation (via Chris Emma of 670 the Score), saying “there are no rules” when a position player is on the mound and noting the sport’s unwritten code of conduct has been relaxed in recent seasons. (La Russa, when asked about Lynn’s comments, said he “(doesn’t) agree” and noted that “Lance has a locker. I have an office,” in reference to his status as the club’s manager). Shortstop Tim Anderson, meanwhile, posted “The game wasn’t over! Keep doing you, big daddy” on Instagram, to which Mercedes replied “Yes sir, let’s do it, baby.”
It seems at least some members of the Twins organization also took exception to Mercedes’ swing decision. During Tuesday night’s game between Minnesota and Chicago, Duffey threw a first-pitch fastball behind Mercedes’ back. The reliever was ejected by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, as was Baldelli. Duffey was replaced by Alex Colomé, who walked Mercedes on four pitches. Other than an innocuous hit by pitch of Jake Lamb by Twins starter Bailey Ober earlier in the game, no players were hit in either of the final two games of the series. No other players or coaches were ejected.
La Russa, for his part, continued to attract controversy after Tuesday’s game. He doubled down on his conviction that Mercedes’ decision to swing at the pitch was unacceptable and said he “(didn’t) have a problem with how the Twins handled it” when asked about Duffey’s pitch (via Ryan McGuffey of NBC Sports Chicago). La Russa’s public disagreement with at least of a few of the Sox most notable stars has drawn plenty of attention around the league throughout the week.
It’s a bizarre situation (particularly for how publicly it’s played out) that could continue to draw unwanted attention to White Sox players and coaches as the season progresses, given La Russa’s reputation as an old-school manager and the young Chicago clubhouse. If there is strife between the players and the coaching staff, it hasn’t seemed to affect the Sox on the field. Chicago has an AL-best 26-16 record.