Willie Harris says it was a misunderstanding. Francisco Rodriguez says he understands exactly what was going on.
Mets closer Rodriguez and Nationals outfielder Harris sparked a bench-clearing incident in the ninth inning of Sunday's 5-2 Washington win because of something Harris said after getting hit on the forearm by a Rodriguez pitch.
Harris admitted he said something but said it wasn't directed at K-Rod. Rodriguez said Harris not only said something to him but "stared" at him as he went to first base.
Rodriguez charged at Harris, pointing and gesticulating, and told him to "go to first base," according to Harris. That's when the benches and bullpens emptied and the players had to be separated. No punches were thrown and no one was ejected.
"He just said a couple words out there I didn't like," Rodriguez said. "That's pretty much why I reacted the way I did."
Said Harris: "I don't remember saying anything to him. I don't know if I did. I don't think I did . . . I was frustrated because it hurt. If I said anything, that was why. I was like, 'Gosh, damn!' But it wasn't those words. He may have thought I was referring to him and that's why he said what he said."
K-Rod has history with a member of the Nationals, but not Harris. Last year, Rodriguez had a verbal altercation with then-Yankee Brian Bruney in the outfield at Yankee Stadium after Bruney had some unkind words to say about Rodriguez in the papers.
In fact, Bruney was seen explaining the 2009 incident to Harris in the Nationals' clubhouse after Sunday's game. Harris said he has no history with K-Rod, though he did save Saturday's 4-3 Nationals win with a diving catch in leftfield.
After Sunday's game, both men explained their positions.
"He was upset," Rodriguez said. "He didn't want to get hit and he said something that I take in a bad way and that's why you see what happened after that. I didn't like it. If he said that in frustration and he goes to first base without looking at me the way he did, I might grab the ball and go back to the mound, but the way he reacted and the way he stared at me, I didn't like."
Said Harris: "If he took it that way, that's on me, and I'll be a man to say, 'Hey, I didn't mean no harm.' But I ain't no little boy or no punk either. You know what I'm saying? I'm a man like he is. I ain't scared of him."
Fighting words? Harris said no. He hopes it doesn't carry over, given that the NL East rivals have five more series against each other in 2010.
"If we brawl, we brawl," Harris said. "But for something stupid like that, I don't think it makes sense for a brawl."