PHOENIX – Cincinnati Reds left fielder Tommy Pham is sitting at a table in the middle of the visiting clubhouse at Chase Field, looks down at his phone, and excitedly yells out to a few scattered teammates.
“Well, I found one friend who wants to go to the Giants game and sit in the left-field stands,’’ Pham says. “Gotta find 50 more.’’
Pham breaks into a grin. Next week, the Reds are playing the San Francisco Giants in a three-game series June 24-26 at Oracle Park.
It will be the first time they’ve played one another since the Slap Heard ‘Round Baseball, residue of a high-staked fantasy football league gone bad, with Pham accusing Giants outfielder Joc Pederson of cheating, jokingly blame Los Angeles Angels All-Star Mike Trout for being a lousy commissioner, and winding up suspended by Major League Baseball and fined $5,000.
“You know what,’’ Pham tells USA TODAY Sports over a breakfast burrito this week, “I’ve got no regrets. None at all.
“Joc deserved to be slapped.’’
The Giants worked themselves in a frenzy when Pham slapped him during batting practice the afternoon of May 27, threatening to file assault charges, or not even play the game. Pham said that MLB intervened and threatened him with an eight-to-10 game suspension unless he accepted an immediate three-game ban.
“They were talking about pressing charges,’’ Pham said. “I’m like, ‘Go ahead. Assault for a slap? OK. People do way worse.’’
Pham was ready to play that evening, but union lawyers informed him that if he didn’t accept a three-game suspension, he would be out much, much longer.
MLB was going to suspend him at least eight games, the same suspension former Texas Rangers infielder Rougned Odor received in 2016 for punching Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, which was reduced to seven games.
“I was like, ‘Come on, how is that even similar to Odor?’’’ Pham said. “That was a punch, and it was during the game.
“What I really didn’t like was how their pitching coach (Andrew Bailey) was talking behind my back saying stuff. I looked at him face-to-face and said, ‘Do we have a problem.’ He says, ‘Why did you slap him?’ I said, ‘Talk to him.’
“This is something personal between me and him. It has nothing to do with the Giants, but they tried to make it about them.’’
Really, Pham was hoping to run into Pederson last year when he played for Atlanta, wanting to deliver the same message. The Padres, whom he played for last season, were playing Atlanta in Sept. 24-26 at Petco Park in San Diego. Several Padres players said in a text strand with Pederson…