SAN DIEGO — Luke Voit spent his entire youth career as a catcher, and a small chunk of his Minor League career behind the dish, as well. He has been on the wrong end of some collisions at home plate.
“You don’t expect it, and sometimes you get blindsided by it,” Voit said, before turning his thoughts to his own collision with Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson on Tuesday night. “I’ve seen both sides of it. Hopefully, Tyler’s all right. I think he is. It’s part of the game. Obviously, there wasn’t any intent to try to take him out or get him hurt.”
The Reds, meanwhile, did not think it was quite so obvious. Former Padres outfielder Tommy Pham called Voit’s slide “dirty,” and Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer said Voit’s elbow to Stephenson’s head was a “wrestling move.”
Voit denied those accusations, noting that the elbow was inadvertent and that he was simply trying to avoid the tag after Stephenson’s position had shifted at the last minute.
A quick recap of the play: With one out in the first inning, Jurickson Profar shot a double into the left-field corner. Voit, on first base at the time, took off. The hulking slugger rounded third and was headed toward the outside of the plate. Farmer’s relay throw took Stephenson to the outside of the dish, as well, just as Voit was beginning his slide. Voit appeared to veer back inward, but he could not evade Farmer, who applied the tag — and hung onto the baseball.
It was a thunderous collision. Voit is listed at 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds. Stephenson is 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds. Stephenson, without any momentum behind him, bore the brunt of it. On Wednesday, he landed on the seven-day concussion injured list.
“It was going to be, obviously, a close play,” Voit said Tuesday night. “You obviously have no idea where the ball’s going to be. It just happens, man. You can’t really explain that situation. I try to avoid, try to be safe. That play ended up happening.”
Stephenson, chiming in later via Twitter, would say: “Only thing that matters is he was out.”
Voit could certainly appreciate that, noting, “I think it was just impressive he hung onto the ball, honestly.”
Reds manager David Bell challenged the play for a potential illegal slide. Umpires confirmed the ruling on the field that the slide was legal, and after the game, Bell said of the challenge: “I thought it could’ve been an illegal slide. That doesn’t mean Voit did it intentionally.”
A day later, Bell wasn’t about to discuss whether Voit had any ill intentions.
“My only concern is our players,” Bell said. “I don’t concern myself with anything like that. My concern right now is just Tyler Stephenson. He has a concussion. We’re going to keep a close eye on him in the next day or so. He’s going to be fine. It’s always concerning anything that happens where you have a head injury.”
Meanwhile, Padres manager Bob Melvin threw his full support behind Voit.
“The ball takes him right into Luke,” said Melvin, a former big league catcher. “There’s nowhere to go. And I think Luke was just trying to protect himself, putting his hands up. I think they got it right.”
Said first baseman Eric Hosmer, who was behind the plate, instructing Voit on where to slide: “It’s just a baseball play. I don’t think his intentions were dirty, by any means.”