PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — As incidents go, it wasn’t much. There were a few harsh words and some menacing looks between the Red Sox and Rays on Saturday. But when Alfredo Aceves is involved, it becomes something more because of his history.
Aceves hit Sean Rodriguez in the left shoulder with a pitch in the fifth inning. Rodriguez had hit a home run in his previous at-bat, making it look like retaliation.
But Aceves threw a split-finger fastball, a pitch with a downward trajectory that escaped his control. Had he been intending to hit Rodriguez, he would likely have thrown a four-seam fastball.
“I was not trying to hit him, obviously,” Aceves said.
Even Rays manager Joe Maddon agreed.
“He said it was a splitter. The gun indicated that it was, and it got away from him. Probably would be more concerned if it was a fastball, but it was a splitter that hit him in the back.”
But once Rodriguez got to first base, he and Aceves began yelling back and forth at each other. When Rodriguez took a step toward the mound, first base coach Dave Myers restrained him.
Several Rays players jumped over the dugout fence onto the field. But the umpires ushered them back, Aceves was pulled from the game and the game ended without any other batters being hit.
“I understand he’s probably upset and frustrated,” Aceves said. “It’s just part of the game.”
Did Rodriguez overreact?
“I don’t know what he was saying. I said, ‘Hey, man, what are you saying?’ It was not intentional,” Aceves said.
Rodriguez didn’t see it quite that simply.
“I was just kind of upset when he was still jawing at me when I got to first and that’s why I kind of got riled up when I was over there,” he said. “I was ready to go because there was some stuff he said that I'll leave unsaid.
“It wasn’t until I got to first that he started doing it, though. He was very apologetic until I got to first.”
Rodriguez hit a two-run homer off Aceves in the ninth inning at Fenway Park last May 27, giving the Rays a 4-3 victory.
“I think he remembered that maybe,” said Rodriguez, who shouted into the Red Sox dugout at Aceves when running off the field after the inning.
Sox manager John Farrell did not fault Aceves.
“It got away from him. I can tell you this: We don’t intentionally look to hit any hitters in any situation,” he said. “Whether or not be got Rodriguez out, he was coming out of that game. I can’t stress enough it’s not something that we’re intentionally looking to do there.”
Aceves was involved in several incidents last season including a confrontation with Bobby Valentine that resulted in a three-game suspension.
Aceves seemed to challenge Farrell’s authority early in spring training when he lobbed pitches during what was supposed to be a live batting practice session. Farrell immediately pulled the righthander aside for a stern talk.
Aceves then was in the middle of a brawl between Mexico and Canada in the WBC earlier this month, absorbing a series of punches from Canadian players.
Aceves allowed two runs over 4.1 innings against the Rays.