LOS ANGELES — Ryan Dempster has stuck to his story that he was merely trying to pitch inside against Alex Rodriguez on Sunday night when he hit him in the elbow with a fastball.
Major League Baseball disagreed and suspended Dempster five games for intentionally throwing at Rodriguez, who is playing for the Yankees after appealing a 211-game suspension for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
David Ortiz also believes Dempster was throwing at Rodriguez and he didn’t approve of the idea.
“I didn’t like it. I don’t think it was the right thing to do,’’ Ortiz told USA Today. “But we don’t all think alike, and the guy who did it, Dempster, is a great guy. It’s not that I didn’t think it was right because Alex and I are friends, because once you cross the white lines, everyone’s on their own.”
The Red Sox had a 2-0 lead when Dempster hit Rodriguez. The Yankees came back and won the game, 9-6. Rodriguez drove in two runs, one with a long home run to center field in the sixth inning.
“We’ve got Tampa right on our heels, and that pitch woke up a monster in the Yankees team at that moment,” Ortiz said. “You saw how the game ended up. CC [Sabathia] was throwing 91 [m.p.h.] and started throwing 96. Alex later hit one way out there.
“You’re talking about a good team that you can’t wake up. But we learn from our mistakes.’’
Ortiz and Rodriguez are longtime friends and spent time together after Saturday’s game.
Ortiz’s comments could be an attempt at self-preservation. The Sox and Yankees play seven more times this season and if New York elects to retaliate for Rodriguez getting hit, Ortiz could be a target.
Like most everybody else in baseball, the Red Sox are curious to get a look at Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig when the team opens a three-game series here on Friday night.
The 22-year-old Cuban defector is hitting .346 in 70 games with 12 home runs and 29 RBIs. His .963 OPS is fifth among players with at least 300 plate appearances.
Puig also has been in the spotlight for overthrowing cutoff men, running the bases recklessly, and playing with a flair that annoys some opponents.
“I’m curious. I’ve seen him play on television and there’s some things that I like and obviously there’s some other stuff,” Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “He looks like a good player. We’ll have to figure out a way to get him out.”
Crawford carps again
Carl Crawford, one of the players the Red Sox traded to the Dodgers a year ago, continues to criticize his time in Boston, something he has done several times this season.
“That was just a bad experience,” Crawford told the Los Angeles Times. “I definitely felt like I had a chance to get a fresh start. With a new team, new atmosphere, new environment.”
Crawford has blamed the atmosphere in Boston and even the media for his hitting .260 with a low .711 OPS after accepting a seven-year, $142 million free agent contract.
“I want to win all three games. Bad,” Crawford said.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is taking a less combative approach to the series.
“I think it’ll be fun to play them,” he told reporters in Miami. “They’re a good club and they’re playing good. The better teams continue to force you to be better. I look forward to it a little bit.”
Ties run deep
Crawford, Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Nick Punto aren’t the only former Red Sox players on the Dodgers roster. Backup catcher Tim Federowicz made the Opening Day roster and has had four stints with the Dodgers, playing 42 games and hitting .238. He was drafted by the Red Sox in 2008 and was traded to the Dodgers in 2011 as part of a three-team, seven-player deal that brought Erik Bedard to Boston . . . Former Sox catcher Jason Varitek was under consideration to compete on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars,” according to several entertainment websites. His wife, Catherine, posted on Twitter that Varitek would not be doing the show.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.