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Opening day must be close; the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals had a bench-clearing brawl Monday afternoon in Grapefruit League play.

And the managers seemed the most animated of anyone involved.

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post speculates that the seeds of discontent were planted a season ago when Nats' outfielder Nyjer Morgan(notes)you just knew Nyjer was involved — unnecessarily ran into Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson(notes) back in August.

Washington manager Jim Riggleman admonished Morgan for the incident and even took the step of keeping him out of the lineup the next day because he feared retaliation by St. Louis skipper Tony La Russa.

Fast forward to Monday: La Russa had forgotten nothing. And, after Morgan bumped into All-Galaxy slugger Albert Pujols(notes) while running to first base in the top of the fifth inning (even though, in Kilgore's opinion, he did so accidentally), "it" apparently was on.

The Cardinals' Chris Carpenter(notes) hit Laynce Nix(notes) with a pitch later in the inning, and Livan Hernandez(notes) apparently responded  by hitting Colby Rasmus(notes) in the gut with a pitch with one out in the bottom half.

After Livan had plunked Rasmus, Kilgore's spidey senses suspected an escalation might be coming. The game apparently is not being broadcast on TV or radio, but we do have Kilgore's live blog:

Top 7, 3:23: Turns out those tensions were not imagined.

Former Nationals reliever Miguel Batista(notes) plunked Ian Desmond(notes) with one out and the bases empty, and after Desmond turned to the catcher and the Cardinals dugout as if asking for an explanation, both benches emptied.

Update: This quote just in from Desmond regarding what it's like being hit by Batista, a former teammate:

"Miggy throws like Miss Iowa, anyway."

That refers to the time Batista referred to himself as being like Miss Iowa when fans pay to see Miss Universe (Stephen Stasburg). At least some players still have a sense of humor about themselves.

Back to Kilgore's live blog:

Nyjer Morgan ... was the first one hopping out of the dugout for the Nats. Coach Trent Jewett, who knows Morgan from their days together in the Pittsburgh minor league system, put his arm around Morgan and led him far, far from the scrum.

(Editor's note: Probably some good coaching there.)

There were apparently no punches thrown. The most demonstrative person was Manager Jim Riggleman, who screamed at Tony La Russa with an index finger protruding. His point seemed to be that each team had hit one batter and that things should have been settled at that. Desmond tried to speak with La Russa, again as if he wanted an explanation.

After the dust settled, Batista was ejected. Knowing how La Russa operates, Batista may have made the team today. It's 5-2, after a single by Nix and an RBI single by LaRoche.

Here's Kilgore's unintentionally hilarious and bawdy description on Twitter of Riggleman's rage:

Jim Riggleman is GIVING IT to Tony La Russa. And they're close friends.

Hey, if they say so.

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