ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - It's not every year that the starting pitcher in Major League Baseball's All-Star game conducts a TV interview to clarify comments he made in an earlier interview, but it certainly has people talking Wednesday.
Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright insisted during the 8th inning of last night's mid-summer classic that he was joking when he said he gave New York Yankees Derek Jeter "pipe shots" in the legendary shortstop's first at bat.
Wainwright was quoted, in print, saying, "I was going to give (Jeter) a couple of pipe shots. I didn't know he was going to hit a double though, or I might have changed my mind."
Social media ran wild with the comments that seemed to suggest Wainwright gave Jeter an easy at-bat which kicked off a disastrous inning for the National League. Wainwright would surrender two more runs after the Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera launched a home run into the left field seats.
The winning team in baseball's All-Star game, historically a meaningless July exhibition, dictates which league will have home field advantage in the World Series. Home field advantage proved crucial to the Cardinals 2011 title, where St. Louis trailed the Texas Rangers 3-2 before winning the final two games at Busch Stadium.
Mike Matheny, the NL manager this year and Wainright's manager, also made the case that Wainwright was joking when he said he would give Jeter "pipe shots" or easy pitches.
So NewsChannel 5 asked veteran baseball writer Bob Nightengale of USA Today about the situation as he was there when Wainwright made the comment in question.
"I think he just said that out of respect for Jeter," Nightengale said over the phone from the airport Wednesday morning. "You know afterwards, Jeter said, 'You know what, if he did that, I appreciate it.' I think people thought it was a veiled shot at Jeter or took something away. Hey, it's just an All Star game, an exhibition. It happens. I saw it happen with Jake Peavey and Todd Helton about a year ago. It's no big deal, I'm surprised people got so excited over it.
"My thing is, Jeter still had to hit the ball. Wainwright's still throwing 90 mph, it's not like he's lobbing it in there."
We asked again about the context of Wainwright's comments. Did the reporters around Wainwright laugh? As if to underscore that the pitcher was clearly being sarcastic about giving Jeter a free at-bat?
"No (laughter) just kind of, eyebrows went up," Nightengale said. "Then a follow up question was asked to make sure he wasn't kidding and he said 'no.' Then when it blew up on the social media, that's when it went into damage control, he kind of backtracked."