Second baseman Chone Figgins got into a heated confrontation with manager Don Wakamatsu midway through the fifth inning of the 2-1 loss to Boston.
Moments after a fiery dugout confrontation that he had found himself right in the middle of, Russell Branyan headed back to the clubhouse for a chat with Chone Figgins.
Branyan had interceded in a heated dugout exchange between Figgins and Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu midway through the fifth inning of a 2-1 loss Friday night to the Boston Red Sox. By the time it was done, players were pulling bodies away, trying to restore order amid the chaos.
The 34-year-old Branyan was a key part of last season’s harmonious Mariners clubhouse, and he thought it was important to go and have a word in the clubhouse with Figgins, who is in his first year of a four-year, $36 million deal with Seattle.
“I just think when you have a situation like that, you want to keep your group together,” Branyan said. “You don’t want guys straying away and going on their own. We’re a 25-man team and we want to keep it that way.”
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The confrontation began when Wakamatsu told Figgins he was pulling him from the game for not backing up cutoff man Jack Wilson on a high throw by left fielder Michael Saunders in the fifth. Figgins stood at second base watching the ball bounce by him, enabling Mike Cameron to take third base on what had been a leadoff double.
“I didn’t think there was much effort on that backup, and I made a decision to take him out of the ballgame,” Wakamatsu said. “One thing people have got to understand is that everybody in that dugout cares. And tempers fly a little bit. But what happens in there stays in there.”
Jason Vargas managed to notch three outs to strand Cameron at third base, drawing roars of approval from the crowd of 34,932 at Safeco Field. But Bill Hall led off the seventh inning with a solo homer to left off Vargas, snapping a 1-1 tie and providing the eventual margin of victory.
Vargas had jumped into the dugout fray in the fifth, trying to pull players away.
“I didn’t really see what happened,” he said. “I was just trying to keep people from getting hurt.”
Branyan said Figgins sat by his locker and watched the rest of the game on television. Figgins left before reporters could speak to him.
“I think Wak felt like we weren’t hustling on a play, and he relieved Figgy,” Branyan said. “He pretty much benched him and took him out of the game. And I think Figgy got a little upset. There have been a lot of emotions around here the way the season’s been going. It was just a situation where things got elevated and there were some words said. I think everyone was just trying to clear the air there, keep guys from getting too emotional.”
Television cameras showed Jose Lopez being yanked out of the middle of the fracas by a coach, but it was unclear whether he had also participated in the fight. Lopez did not emerge to talk to reporters after the game.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik was in Tacoma during the game, watching Class AAA pitching prospect Michael Pineda. After the Mariners’ game ended, Wakamatsu phoned Zduriencik to tell him what happened.
Zduriencik plans to sit down with Wakamatsu and Figgins before Saturday’s game for a closed-door chat.
“Until I get a chance to sit down and speak to everybody directly, I don’t think it’s fair for me to comment,” he said.
The Mariners are 2-7 since the All-Star break and have committed numerous baserunning, situational hitting and fielding blunders. But through it all, the players committing the gaffes have been allowed to remain in games and stay in the starting lineup.
Wakamatsu has been saying since before the break that his players would be held accountable for mistakes. This time, he made good on that pledge.
“I think you’re talking about baserunning plays, and not all of those are cut and dried,” Wakamatsu said of the prior gaffes that went unpunished. “I thought this was cut and dried.”
There has been an underlying tension brewing between Wakamatsu and some of his players since the hasty retirement and departure of Ken Griffey Jr. in early June. The pair did not speak for roughly two weeks before Griffey leaving, and several players believe Wakamatsu forced him into retirement — a charge the manager vehemently denies.
The week following the retirement, Figgins reacted angrily and criticized Wakamatsu’s decision to bump him from No. 2 back to No. 9 in the batting order during a series in Texas. The Mariners were embarrassed on the field during that series, and several veterans — including the since-traded Cliff Lee — held a players-only meeting in San Diego afterward to clear the air about several topics, including putting the Griffey episode behind them.
One of the reasons Branyan was acquired was for additional leadership at a time the team knew Lee was soon to be traded.
“It’s something where we need to come together and pull through this,” Branyan said, “as opposed to pointing fingers and tearing the team apart.”
• Mariners left-hander Erik Bedard is meeting with specialist Dr. David Altchek in New York next week to get a third opinion on his sore shoulder.
It’s getting less and less likely that Bedard will throw a pitch this season. He has had two surgeries already and is still not feeling right.
He has already sought the opinions of Dr. Lewis Yocum and Dr. Edward Khalfayan. Once he gets an opinion he can live with, he’ll still have to pursue treatment and then get the arm strong enough to pitch again.