NEW YORK – It's roughly 75 miles from Trenton, N.J., where New York Yankees reliever Brian Bruney(notes) appeared Saturday on a rehab assignment, to Yankee Stadium. But it took no time for Bruney's shot at New York Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez(notes) – "He's got a tired act" – to make its way up the New Jersey Turnpike, across the George Washington Bridge to the Major Deegan Expressway, then across the Macombs Dam Bridge to 161st and River Avenue.
News travels fast. Insults take the express lane.
And the Subway Series, as if it needed any more juice, had its first hissing fit of the weekend, the night after the Mets had been reduced to Luis Castillo's(notes) wordless tears after the second baseman dropped a popup on what should have been the last out of a Mets win and a Rodriguez save. Instead, two runs scored on Castillo's error ("E-mazing" was the headline in the New York Post), and the Yankees won 9-8, pinning the defeat on a stunned K-Rod.
Asked about the play Saturday in Trenton, Bruney said he'd never seen anything like it, other than in high school. Then, unprompted, he added, according to Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News, who was there: "It couldn't happen to a better guy on the mound, either. He's got a tired act.''
Bruney, asked why he harbored such strong feelings toward Rodriguez, cited the pitcher's conduct in a game a couple of years ago when he was complaining about an umpire's ball/strike call and missed the throw back from the catcher, allowing the winning run to score from third.
"The catcher threw it back and [Rodriguez] just kind of did one of these,'' Bruney said, holding his glove out casually. "It hit off his glove and bounced behind. The guy from third scored to win the game. So he gets what he deserves."
He also made a reference to Rodriguez's demonstrative celebrations on the mound. Nothing personal, he said. "I just don't like watching the guy pitch. I think it's embarrassing.''
Bruney's words obviously had been relayed to Rodriguez even before the end of Saturday's 6-2 Mets win over the Yankees, one in which Rodriguez recorded the final three outs, because K-Rod was ready with a response when asked about it after the game.
"Instead of sending a message to the paper, why not see me at Citi Field and say something to me?'' Rodriguez said. "I don't know who the guy is. He hasn't pitched in a full season. He'd better keep his mouth shut and do his job.''
Bruney, who broke into the majors in 2004 with Arizona, has been on the disabled list in four of his six seasons in the big leagues, including two stints on the DL with a sore elbow this season. Counted upon to be the team's primary setup man this season, he has pitched just nine innings for the Yankees, though he is expected to be activated next week.
Rodriguez, while claiming not to know Bruney, sounded well aware of his injury history.
"When it comes out from somebody big like Mariano [Rivera],'' Rodriguez said, referring to the Yankees' closer, "somebody who has been around and is good at what he does, I will respect that comment. Some guy who I don't know who he is, four years in the big leagues always playing hurt, it doesn't matter.''
Rodriguez points skyward with both hands after many games, then kisses a hand and points again. He once explained that he was first pointing to God, then sending a kiss to his grandfather, who died in 1999.
He acknowledged in the past that many opponents consider his gestures excessive.
"I don't care what people say,'' he once said. "That's my way. People can say I'm arrogant, anything they want to say. But me, I'm going to live my world.''
Planet K-Rod, clearly, is not a place Brian Bruney wishes to inhabit.
- Brian Bruney