A’s prospect Arnold Leon was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento and Oakland’s minor league camp Monday, his day first back from a wild weekend at the World Baseball Classic in which he incited a full-scale melee between his home country of Mexico and Canada by throwing three pitches to try and purposely hit a batter late in the game.
A’s manager Bob Melvin said Leon’s demotion had nothing to do with the incident that’s still reverberating around the WBC, even though both countries are now eliminated. Melvin said there simply aren’t enough innings available in the major-league camp to keep Leon busy enough.
In his first extended comments since the incident, Leon confirmed he was under orders to deliver a hit-by-pitch when he drilled Canadian hitter Rene Tosoni in the back after Chris Robinson bunted to reach first in the ninth inning with Canada leading by six runs.
Leon maintained his only failure was that he required three pitches as opposed to one to get it done.
“If I had hit him with the first pitch, probably nothing like that would have happened,” he admitted. “It just happened. It’s baseball. Like I said, I just did what I did. You have to do it.”
Having never been involved in a brawl in his baseball life, Leon was still a bit shocked that things erupted the way they did. Asked if he was sorry for what he did, he said he was only really following orders.
“It shouldn’t have happened,”Leonsaid. “I just did what I had to do. I wasn’t trying to hurt anybody.”
Leon confessed that he was implored by teammate Luis Cruz (of the Dodgers) to hit Tosoni – to the degree that Cruz pointed to his own ribcage — and may have also gotten a directive from theMexico bench.
“I saw the sign,” he said. “And if somebody tells you that you have to do something like that, you have to respect that, you have to respect your teammate.”
Leon said he has heard positive and negative comments since the brawl on Saturday. The pitcher said his A’s teammates have been supportive, however.
“They just told me to calm down and take it easy, that I did what I was supposed to do,”Leonsaid after working out with the A’s minor-leaguers at Papago Park. “I just want to forget what happened, keep working and try to get to the big leagues.”
Leon, 24, was the only A’s representative in the WBC, and he was a late entry at that, coming in just two days before the controversial game. But he became one of the players who will be most remembered from the latest international event.
Leon said he added that he didn’t get involved in the actual shoving and pushing, noting that he was more worried about his family, including his pregnant wife Cynthia, who were in the stands.
“I got out of there … I was trying to calm down after that,” he said. “I thought about my family and my wife. She was there watching me, so I was worried about her. That’s why I just tried to get out of the way. She was scared a little bit because she thought I was one of the guys (on the ground in the melee).”
Leon said he was totally unaware of the WBC’s run differential rules that prompted Canada to continue playing for as many runs as possible. He simply thought it might have been a directive of frustration.
“You’re representing your country,Mexico, there is a passion there for playing baseball,” he said. “There are a lot of feelings on it, and we were losing. I didn’t know the rules.”
Leon said when he met with Melvin Monday morning the manager asked if he was hurt and he told him no. He added that manager told him to “keep fighting.”
Advised that “fighting” might not be the proper word choice, Leon chuckled.
“Fighting like staying competitive and being aggressive, keeping positive,” the pitcher said. “I just want to keep working, forget about what happened the other day and keep working, keep moving and try to get to the big leagues.”