Showalter insists he wasn't trying to needle Red Sox with flu talk

BOSTON -- For someone who claims to be sick of hearing about the highly contagious flu that has run through the Boston Red Sox clubhouse over the past two weeks, Buck Showalter can't seem to stop talking about it.

One day after Showalter said multiple teams have had to cope with the flu and praised his players for "not broadcasting it to the world," the Baltimore Orioles manager rejected the idea that he was trying to get under the Red Sox's skin during the first series of the season between the AL East rivals.

"Am I trying to needle the Red Sox? No, that's ridiculous," Showalter said before Wednesday night's game at Fenway Park. "But I appreciate you trying to go down that road. That's typical. What else?"

Moments earlier, though, Showalter took another chance to note the fact that the Red Sox's flu infestation has gotten so much attention.

To recap: Beginning in the final week of spring training, Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland, right fielder Mookie Betts, utilityman Brock Holt, designated hitter Hanley Ramirez, relief pitchers Robbie Ross Jr. and Joe Kelly and at least two coaches have missed time because of the flu. Some have needed to be quarantined. Ross was even placed on the 10-day disabled list.

The Minnesota Twins asked that the visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park be fumigated after the Red Sox left Detroit on Monday night. The home clubhouse at Fenway received the same treatment before the Sox began a seven-game homestand Tuesday night. The Red Sox have gone 3-3 in their first six games and have not had their optimal lineup on the field since Opening Day.

Yet before questions about the flu could be completed during his pregame media session Wednesday, Showalter mocked the very mention of the illness.

"The Red Sox are the only ones who have it, huh? I didn't know that," Showalter said. "Nobody else has it? The whole league's got it. It seems to get broadcast more here."

It seems, then, that Showalter is either blaming the Red Sox for accentuating their health issues or the media for reporting about it. Showalter suggested he wasn't doing the former.

"Not at all," he said. "I'd talk about it, too, if my guy doesn't show up to work. Wouldn't you? I'd do it the same way."

Told that his comments Tuesday would seem to indicate he was trying to at least tweak the Red Sox, Showalter said, "No, I don't think it would. That's how you read it. It wasn't meant that way."

Red Sox manager John Farrell defended himself by saying he merely has been explaining why players are absent from the lineup.

"We haven't publicized it. I've answered questions," Farrell said. "There's been no excuses made. We're here to play baseball."

Asked if he was surprised by Showalter's initial comments Tuesday, Farrell said flatly, "No."

It isn't uncommon for Showalter to stir his players by denigrating their big-market rivals. For years, he has harped on the advantages the high-payroll Red Sox and New York Yankees have had over the Orioles, who nevertheless lead the American League with 448 wins since the beginning of the 2012 season.