06/10/08 7:05 PM ET
Mientkiewicz reacts to Big Unit
Utility man calls Diamondbacks pitcher 'mentally weak'
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
The two got into a verbal spat in the Pirates' 5-3 win over Arizona on Monday after Mientkiewicz stepped out of the batter's box, and then after stepping back in, called time again as Johnson was beginning his windup. Johnson took exception to Mientkiewicz's actions and immediately began barking at the Pirates' infielder.
When Johnson stepped off the mound and started toward home plate, Mientkiewicz went toward him, going face-to-face with the 6-foot-10 Johnson. Both benches emptied onto the field; however, no punches were thrown.
After the game, Johnson played off the incident, saying: "It didn't bother me at all. If it would've, [Mientkiewicz] would probably be on a stretcher, and I'd be out of the game."
On Monday, Mientkiewicz had a chance to respond to Johnson's comments.
"I've been on a stretcher before and, technically, he's been out of the game for three years in my mind," Mientkiewicz said, alluding to Johnson's seasons with the Yankees and his injury-plagued 2007 campaign. "That just shows me how mentally weak he is. That's why he got out of [New York]."
Johnson played in New York from 2005-06 before returning to the D-backs rotation in '07.
"New York beat him down, let's put it that way," said Mientkiewicz, in no mood to apologize for his outspokenness. "He doesn't have intimidating stuff anymore, so I'm not going to stand for it."
Once play resumed following that third-inning fracas, Johnson threw two straight balls, which handed Mientkiewicz a five-pitch walk. Johnson committed a throwing error on the following play before a five-pitch, bases-loaded walk later in the inning that forced in Pittsburgh's first run of the game.
Johnson said afterward that his unraveling had nothing to do with his exchange of words with Mientkiewicz. Again, however, Mienkiewicz adamantly held a different opinion.
"It affected him completely," Mientkiewicz said. "I know how mentally weak he is. I tried to take the high road, [but] not anymore."
The Pirates and D-backs will face each other one more time this season in an Aug. 4-6 series in Arizona.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.