HOUSTON — Amid criticism from Major League Baseball, the Houston Astros on Thursday defended the team’s decision to deny a newspaper reporter access to the clubhouse until after ace pitcher Justin Verlander finished his postgame session with the media.

MLB said Wednesday night’s incident violated its media guidelines and the Detroit Free Press said barring its reporter, Anthony Fenech, was “intolerable.”

Verlander, who played for Detroit for 13 seasons, had just pitched a two-hitter in a 2-1 loss to the Tigers. The Astros opened their clubhouse at 9:35 p.m. As the rest of the media was allowed to enter, Fenech, who has a credential issued by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, was stopped by three Astros security officials.

Fenech contacted MLB vice president of communications Mike Teevan and was allowed in at 9:41 p.m., after Verlander had concluded his media session. Fenech approached Verlander, who said: “I’m not answering your questions.”

Verlander addressed the situation on Twitter on Thursday, accusing Fenech of unspecified “unethical behavior in the past.” The Astros said Fenech was “delayed temporarily.”

“This course of action was taken after taking into consideration the past history between Fenech and one of our players, Justin Verlander, Verlander’s legitimate concerns about past interactions with Fenech, and the best interests of the other media members working the game,” Astros vice president of communications Gene Dias said. “Fenech was allowed access to the clubhouse shortly after other media members and had the opportunity to approach Verlander or any player he needed. We believe that our course of action in this isolated case was appropriate.”

Asked for comment on Dias’ explanation, the Free Press cited a statement from executive editor Peter Bhatia:

“Blocking a working reporter from doing his job is unprofessional, disappointing and intolerable,” Bhatia said. “We will be protesting to MLB and the Astros.”

RAYS: Second baseman Brandon Lowe suffered a quad injury during a rehabilitation assignment and likely will miss the rest of the season.

Manager Kevin Cash said Lowe got hurt on Wednesday while playing for Triple-A Durham.

ANGELS: Rookie right-hander Griffin Canning will miss the rest of the season with mild elbow inflammation. The 23-year-old Orange County native went 5-6 with a 4.58 ERA in 18 appearances after getting called up in April.

PIRATES: Pittsburgh is parting ways with veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli, who’s worked his way back from another concussion and is hoping to catch on with a contender.

The Pirates announced they had requested unconditional release waivers on the 33-year-old Cervelli. He’s played 34 games this season, hitting .193 with one home run and five RBI.

Cervelli has suffered several concussions in his career, and hasn’t played in the majors since his most recent one May 25.

ORIOLES-NATIONALS DISPUTE: A judge confirmed an arbitration decision from baseball executives ordering the Nationals to be paid $296.8 million by the cable network they jointly own with Baltimore for their television rights from 2012-16.

The Orioles and Nationals jointly own the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network and have been fighting in court for years about how much money Washington is owed under their unusual TV rights arrangement.

VENEZUELAN LEAGUE: MLB said its players will be banned from participating in the Venezuelan Winter League because of recent U.S. economic sanctions against Venezuela.

MLB said in a statement that it has been “in contact with the relevant government agencies” about how to proceed under the sanctions. For now, MLB said it will suspend its involvement in the league, one of many leagues that big league players use for offseason development, until it gets permission from the federal government for players to participate.


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