Fracas erupts between Sox and Rays

Fracas erupts between Sox and Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- Before hearing exactly what was going to come out of both clubhouses, Red Sox manager Terry Francona had things pretty well pegged after an eventful and emotional Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field.

"You know, they're going to have their version, we're going to have our version," said Francona. "That's the way it always is."

To recap the sequence of events in an eventual 11-3 victory for Boston, Red Sox right-hander Bronson Arroyo hit Aubrey Huff with a pitch in the bottom of the sixth. Then, in the top of the seventh, Rays reliever Lance Carter threw a pitch behind Manny Ramirez, and warnings were issued to both sides. Ramirez issued his own type of warning, drilling the very next pitch over the wall in left field.

Ramirez had barely settled back into his dugout seat when Carter's 2-1 pitch to David Ortiz whistled right above the ducking slugger's helmet.

The benches then emptied. Devil Rays catcher Toby Hall somehow contained the bulky Ortiz, likely saving the designated hitter a suspension in the process.

"Big boy," said Hall. "Just wanted to make sure he didn't get out there."

"It's a new season. You don't want to be missing time out there," Ortiz said. "Especially people throwing at your head and [stuff]. I don't play that. I respect everybody. I pretty much try to get along with everybody, but I don't play that game."

Rays manager Lou Piniella was ejected, as was Carter, per rules of incidents following a warning.

Sox right fielder Trot Nixon hustled toward the mound, and Rays right-hander Dewon Brazelton (who wasn't pitching) intervened, leading to a heated exchange that led to the ejection of both players.

"A certain person grabbed at my eye," said Nixon, referring to Brazelton. "I didn't like that too much. That ignited me. It made me furious. I went up to Carter. If I was an idiot, I could have went out there and hurt Carter. But I'm not going to do that. It just wouldn't be right. I wasn't going to do anything. Then the other guy decided he wanted to jump in there and started grabbing."

Piniella wondered why Ortiz wasn't ejected, even though the big slugger was contained so well by both Hall and the umpires.

"I don't know what their intentions are, but I know we're going to protect our hitters. I'll tell you that," said Piniella. "I thought the umpires did a good job of handling it. But Ortiz should have been thrown out of the ballgame."

Ortiz thinks that Piniella needs to teach his young pitchers the art of throwing inside without endangering the livelihood of opposing hitters.

"Sometimes watching TV, their manager going off on their pitching just because they make a mistake," Ortiz said. "I never saw that before. You know what I'm saying? That tells you, sometimes everything starts up because of him. You don't wake people up like that. You have a whole bunch of young people out there, you teach them how to play the game, but without disrespecting nobody. The [more] respect you show to people, the [more] respect you get. That's how it is."

Speaking of respect, Arroyo surely earned some more from his teammates when he cleanly hit Chris Singleton on the thigh to start the bottom of the seventh. The Boston starter was ejected, along with Francona.

Singleton was hardly shocked.

"In my mind, I figured that was a possibility when they had a guy up in their 'pen and their starter came back out to the mound to start the inning," Singleton said.

Did Singleton say anything to Arroyo?

"I know he was a little [perturbed], but it's part of the game," said Arroyo. "Obviously, there was some guys hit earlier in the week. There's always tension with teams, especially when guys like Manny and David get hit."

To keep with the tally of the weekend, four Tampa Bay batters were hit and three Boston batters got plunked.

There seems to be something in the water when these two franchises get together. There was an infamous bench-clearing incident in August 2000, when Pedro Martinez plunked Gerald Williams to lead off the game. There was another heated afternoon in 2002, when Ryan Rupe hit both Nomar Garciaparra and Shea Hillenbrand and Nixon retaliated by throwing his bat on a swing.

Of course, almost all of those aforementioned names aren't with either team anymore, leading one to conclude that this weekend's incident was completely isolated from what has taken place in the past.

"It's a part of the game," said Sox right fielder Jay Payton, who put the game out of reach with a grand slam while subbing for Nixon. "That's a sad part of the game, where we've had a few guys getting hit. They get one guy hit, and they want to come back and retaliate. But then one of their guys got hit. It is what it is. It's part of the game. You just have to take your lumps and keep on going, basically."

Payton hopes the incident won't linger, as the teams have 16 head-to-head matchups remaining.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's over," Payton said. "What's done is done. Hopefully, the next time we play these guys, we'll just have a good, clean ballgame and see what happens."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Reporter Bill Chastain contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.