The drama — intentional or not — between Tim Anderson and the Kansas City Royals won’t slow down.
It was on April 13 against these Royals that Anderson got thrust into baseball’s national spotlight, flipping his bat in celebration of a home run, then hit by a pitch in his next plate appearance to set off a benches-clearing incident and stir up the conversation about the game’s old- and new-school attitudes. There was also Anderson’s use of a racially charged word that earned him a one-game suspension.
Well, Anderson didn’t get to see the Royals much during the first two games of this week’s series on the South Side, limited to one pinch-running appearance while nursing a wrist injury. But he was back in the lineup Wednesday night and was almost immediately greeted with a rude welcome from the visitors.
First, a little more backstory. In the top half of the second inning, Reynaldo Lopez lost control of a 95 mph fastball that nearly hit Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier right in the face. Players have been hit in the face before, but this had the looks of one of those “it could have killed him” pitches, even if that might be a tad hyperbolic. Bottom line: It was really scary. Thank goodness Dozier was able to get out of the way.
Well, in the bottom half of the inning, Royals pitcher Glenn Sparkman faced a batter — Eloy Jimenez led off the inning with a single — before his own pitch ended up near the head of an opposing batter. That batter was Anderson, in his first plate appearance against the Royals since April 13.
Sparkman’s 86 mph changeup, the second pitch of the plate appearance, hit the bill of Anderson’s helmet, and the pitcher was instantly ejected by the home-plate umpire, Mark Carlson, who you’d figure had knowledge of the last time Anderson saw the Royals.
Sparkman hits Anderson in the head. Sparkman ejected immediately. pic.twitter.com/lgRhjFF4Ku— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) May 30, 2019
Was it retaliation for the pitch to Dozier? Was it the next episode in the ongoing drama between the Royals and Anderson? Or did it simply get away from him? That we don’t know.
It wasn’t the kind of pitch you usually see in an intentional plunking, the kind of pitch that Brad Keller hit Anderson with back in April, if that helps your thinking. Even if the Royals weren’t happy with that Lopez fastball nearly hitting Dozier, it’d be some kind of jump to try to hit someone in the head. Even the old-school thinkers likely aren’t warm to that idea.
Regardless of intent, the pitch did hit Anderson and almost hit him in the head. It’s not likely to cool the feelings between the two sides — or among the White Sox fan base — and it is the latest chapter in a saga that stretches back to last season.