Detroit Tigers’ Niko Goodrum: Jose Abreu needs to ‘take responsibility’ for reckless slide

Detroit Free Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Niko Goodrum pointed to his elbow.

“That hurts, especially on the elbow,” Goodrum said Tuesday, before the Detroit Tigers began a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins. “He’s mad. I get it. But then you are responsible for your actions. We’re all grown. We’re not kids anymore. From there, that’s what he decided to do.”

On Monday afternoon, Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu darted toward second base at Comerica Park. Without context, the 34-year-old and reigning American League MVP appeared to be stealing second base on a ball in the dirt from Tigers rookie reliever Alex Lange, who pitched the ninth inning in an 8-7 loss against the AL Central leaders.

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Running at full speed, Abreu didn’t slow down when he should have. He recklessly attacked second base, where Goodrum — the Tigers’ shortstop — tagged him out on the throw from catcher Eric Haase. His slide was so aggressive that his body traveled past the bag. Had Goodrum not seen this coming, his legs would have been taken out.

“You break my leg, that’s an issue,” Goodrum said. “Everyone out here is just trying to feed their family.”

About 24 hours later, Goodrum sat in the dugout at Target Field and spoke his mind. The Tigers and White Sox meet again Friday for a three-game series at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago to conclude the regular season.

“I’m aggressive on the base paths, but I also know when it seems there’s intent because you’re mad,” Goodrum said. “When you start to put someone’s career at stake, then I have an issue with that. … I’ve been playing against the White Sox for four years. He’s never done anything like that. He doesn’t play like that. That brings up more things with me.”

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One pitch before Abreu nearly mauled Goodrum, Lange drilled Chicago’s best player in the elbow with a 97 mph fastball. This happened with one out in the top of the ninth inning, after the Tigers scored five runs in the eighth to cut their deficit to one run.

In the eighth, White Sox reliever Mike Wright plunked Isaac Paredes in the hand with a sinker up and inside. But the game was peaceful until the White Sox — including manager Tony La Russa and ejected bench coach Miguel Cairo — started barking at Lange for throwing up and inside against Abreu, which resulted in the hit by pitch.

On Tuesday, La Russa called the Tigers “irresponsible” and explained that he doesn’t think pitchers should throw up and inside unless they have top-tier command. After La Russa and Hinch jawed back and forth from their dugouts, Monday’s game continued with Abreu on first base.

“If you feel some type of way about what happened, you should have handled it when it happened,” Goodrum said. “Once you get down there (to first base) and have all that time, you’re in your head plotting what you’re going to do next. I already know what’s going on. You got all that time to think about what you’re going to do. That’s why I have a problem with it.”

Moments later, the game stopped again.

“There’s no way he was trying to be safe,” Goodrum said. “It was clear from the video.”

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That’s when Abreu nearly collided with Goodrum.

“He can be mad,” Goodrum said. “That’s his response? Cool. Once you came over here and involved me, now I’m in it for no reason. If you want to take it out that way, it’s OK for us to go that route, too. I’m the guy on this team that will bring fire. That’s what happened, but I’m never out for somebody.”

As a result of the aggressive slide, the Tigers and White Sox cleared their benches and bullpens. Players and coaches from both sides ran behind second base for a standoff, where many words were exchanged. They shoved each other around, but no punches were thrown.

“He’s upset, but he’s got to take responsibility on his end,” Goodrum said. “He got hit by a pitch, but take responsibility that you tried to take me out. If I break my leg, you’re mad and I’m going to the hospital with a broken leg. You came out on top, and I’m hurt for who knows how long. That’s why I checked him on that. I get you’re mad, but we’re adults.”

Abreu has been hit by 21 pitches this season. The Tigers, however, hadn’t hit him with a pitch since Spencer Turnbull drilled him twice on Sept. 29, 2019. Hinch and Lange repeatedly said hitting Abreu with an 0-2 fastball “wasn’t intentional.”

“I don’t know anything about that,” Goodrum said about Abreu’s hit-by-pitch total. “That’s stuff he’s dealing with, the White Sox are dealing with.”

Following Monday’s dilemma, White Sox starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel indicated he would respond with payback when the Tigers show up to Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday to complete the regular season.

“If I was pitching tomorrow, I’d stick up for (Abreu) myself,” Keuchel said. “Or I guess Friday.”

Goodrum then gave his response.

“I mean, that’s part of who the White Sox are,” Goodrum said. “They talk. That builds them up. As a whole, you can hear them from the dugout. That’s just who they are, and that’s fine. They play their game. We play our game. That’s the type of team they are. They’re very animated. Let them be them, and we’ll be who we are.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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