Rodriguez, Niemann play down bullpen altercation

New York Mets relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez (75)

New York Mets relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez (75) reacts after striking out New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (not pictured) to end the game in the top of the ninth inning. (May 23, 2010) (Credit: Christopher Pasatieri)

Francisco Rodriguez didn't want to talk about it. Jerry Manuel called it a "disagreement." Randy Niemann said it was a "misunderstanding."

The subject was the heated altercation between Rodriguez, the Mets' closer, and Niemann, the team's bullpen coach, in the Citi Field bullpen during the late innings of Sunday night's Mets-Yankees game. A person familiar with the situation said Mets relievers had to separate the two.

"I never got into it with nobody," Rodriguez said. "I have nothing to say. No comments."

Said Niemann: "It was a misunderstanding. We talked it out."

And Manuel, who said he did not speak to Rodriguez, said: "I guess they had a disagreement. By the time it got to me, Randy said there was no issues after that and it was resolved. You're going to have some issues in the bullpen or in the dugout or whatever. I don't see that as an issue at this point."

The issue between Niemann and Rodriguez apparently is actually between Manuel and Rodriguez, with Niemann caught in the middle because he's the guy who answers the phone in the bullpen.

Rodriguez evidently has not been happy with the way Manuel has used him in some games, starting with the 20-inning game in St. Louis on April 17. Rodriguez was asked to warm up so many times that he said he threw 100 pitches in the bullpen and felt he had nothing left when he entered the contest. He allowed a run in the 19th inning for one of his two blown saves in 10 chances going into last night.

Rodriguez apparently also was upset with Manuel for using him in a non-save situation in Washington on Thursday and for having him warm up in the eighth inning on Sunday before coming in to save the Mets' 6-4 win in the ninth. Rodriguez had gotten a five-out save on Saturday.

Closers are creatures of habit and often do not wish to pitch in non-save situations. And established relievers bristle when asked to warm up multiple times before coming into a game lest they leave their best stuff in the bullpen.

"K-Rod wants to pitch, period," Manuel said. "I have never had an issue with him coming into a game. Never."

Former Mets catcher Brian Schneider, now with the Phillies, said Rodriguez is not one to hold back when he feels wronged. "If he feels strongly about something, he'll voice his opinion," he said. "Sometimes that's a fault. Sometimes that's not a fault."

Regarding Rodriguez's need for structure, Schneider said: "He's got one of those things where he has his own little routine and he does his own thing over there. But that's been his routine for a long time."

With Jim Baumbach

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