SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A misunderstanding between Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward and San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner led to an exchange of words around home plate in the fourth inning of their spring game on Thursday night.
Bumgarner thought Heyward and Dexter Fowler were stealing signs, while Heyward insists he was only asking Fowler, who was on second base at the time, if a called third strike was a good pitch.
“Dexter was so discreet I was still waiting for a response,” Heyward explained after the incident. “He was too subtle. I was like ‘just give me a thumbs up on the side.’ I didn’t see it so I was still looking and I was looking and getting ready to turn and Buster (Posey) was like, ‘Hey, hey what we got?’ And I was like, ‘Well, this doesn’t look good but this isn’t what you guys thought it was.’”
Bumgarner thought Heyward was upset that Fowler didn’t give him the correct sign before strike three was thrown.
“He (Heyward) didn’t say anything to him (Fowler),” Bumgarner stated. “He just looked at him, from what I could tell. If it looked like he was upset with him, there’s only one reason he could be doing that. You might want to be a little more discreet about that if you’re going to do that kind of thing.
“I thought he was looking at me or talking to me. But he said he wasn’t. So there’s only one other person for him to be talking to -- the guy standing on second base.”
Heyward said sign stealing was the furthest thing from his mind. He just wishes Fowler would have been less discreet about whether he thought it was a ball or a strike. Then he would have headed right back to the dugout.
“It was a misunderstanding,” Heyward continued. “No tipping of the signs. I understand people would say, ‘Oh, they wouldn’t tell us anyway’ but believe me or not, that was not going on. Especially in a spring training game. I wouldn’t show up my teammate if they gave me the wrong sign. That just looks bad.”
Bumgarner said there’s no history between the players, while Heyward praised the pitcher’s competitive nature.
“They’re first-class guys,” Heyward said of the Giants. “They try to play the game the same way. I try to do the same. That was it.”
Fowler said in the Cubs clubhouse that the “moral to the story” is next time he needs to give a more obvious signal as he smiled and made a thumbs-up sign, much to the delight of Heyward.