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Tempers flare vs. Cubs in spring training — wait till it counts

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Cubs and Giants haven’t even reached the regular season yet, and the tensions already are rising between the two National League contenders.

In the fourth inning of a nationally televised spring game started by each team’s ace, the tensions nearly boiled over when Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner and Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward had to be restrained after a “misunderstanding” over what Bumgarner believed was a case of stealing pitch signs.

Really.

In a spring training game.

Wait until it counts.

Maybe some of the intensity was about a lineup full of Giants regulars who remembered getting swept at Wrigley Field last August in a four-game series that knocked the Giants from playoff position and changed the fortunes of both teams’ seasons.

Regardless, Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler believes the Cubs are going to see more hard play – if not increased hard feelings – all season because of the target the young National League favorites wear this year.

“They’re a competitive team,” Fowler said of the Giants. “So obviously each and every game they’re going to come out and they’re going to battle, especially with the type of hype we have here.”

And not just the Giants.

“Yeah, for sure,” Fowler said. “I think everybody’s going to be on our helmet. So it’s just a matter of going out and taking care of business on this side.”

Thursday’s made-for-spring-training-TV moment started when Bumgarner struck out Heyward on a called strike Heyward said he wasn’t sure about. So he looked out at Fowler at second, trying to get his attention to see what he thought, Heyward said.

When the unhappy gaze lasted longer than a second or two, Bumgarner initially took Heyward to be looking at him.

“But he said he wasn’t,” Bumgarner said. “So there’s only one other person for him to be talking to. That’s the guy standing on second base. He looked like he was upset with him. There’s only one reason he could be doing that.

“Might want to be a little more discreet about that if they’re going to do that kind of thing.”

“Discreet about what?” said Heyward, who was eager to set the record straight with media.

“There was no tipping the signs. I understand people would say they wouldn’t tell us anyway,” Heyward said. “Believe me or not, genuinely that was not going on. Especially not in a spring training game. I wouldn’t show up my teammate if he gave me the wrong sign or anything else. That just looks bad.

“It was a misunderstanding.”

“The morale of the story,” said Fowler, giving a very high thumbs-up, “ is from now on I’m going to go like this.”