ANAHEIM — Luis Valbuena swears that his frequent bat flips aren’t a way to show up any opponents.
He says he can’t help it.
“It’s natural,” the Angels infielder said. “I don’t do it on purpose. When you hit, I have to throw the bat. I can’t control it. I have to hit it and run.”
One of Valbuena’s bat flips created an issue on Wednesday night, when Astros right-hander Mike Fiers was offended enough by it that he threw a pitch over Valbuena’s head in his next trip to the plate.
After the game, Fiers admitted it was intentional, because he felt disrespected. On Thursday, Fiers was suspended for five games. He accepted the suspension without appeal.
“I think the league has been pretty adamant about guys sending messages,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “Obviously, he took it upon himself to send a message and the league acted on it.”
Fiers declined to speak to reporters on Thursday.
“It’s OK if he hits me,” Valbuena said, “but I don’t like him throwing to my head.”
Valbuena said he considered Fiers “an unbelievable friend,” from their time together in Houston the past two seasons.
Valbuena said Fiers should know “how I can play the game,”which obviously includes flipping his bat.
“I do it every time,” he said. “If I hit a ground ball to the pitcher, I do a bat flip. I hit a fly ball to the catcher, I do a bat flip. A ground ball to second base, I do a bat flip.”
Flips like the one after his 20th homer on Wednesday night, however, come with a little extra gusto, as the emotion of the moment is added to his normal routine.
“I enjoy the game,” Valbuena said. “It’s hard to hit a home run. Hitting 20 home runs is not easy. This is only my second year hitting 20 home runs. I enjoy it. A lot of guys know I enjoy the game.”
Scioscia said he’s never felt the need to tell Valbuena to stop.
“We’re in a different era of baseball that started when I was still playing,” Scioscia said. “You could see guys who were starting to look at home runs or the bat flips and this and that. It’s an era that we’re in, so guys do it against us. It’s just part of the individual expression that’s been accepted in today’s game.”
Andrew Heaney (shoulder impingement) is “moving in the right direction,” Scioscia said, but they aren’t sure when he’ll be far along enough to throw a bullpen session, which would obviously precede him pitching in a game. …
Yunel Escobar (strained oblique)…