A bitter rival of the Red Sox arrives at Fenway Park on Friday night for the start of a three-game series and it’s natural to wonder whether there might be another brawl.
The Yankees? Try again. It’s the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Sox and Rays cleared the benches on Sunday at Tropicana Field after Tampa Bay’s Yunel Escobar got into a shouting match with some players in the Red Sox dugout while standing on third base.
Jonny Gomes raced in from left field to confront Escobar and soon everybody joined in. Gomes, Escobar, and Tampa Bay’s Sean Rodriguez were ejected.
The teams have mixed it up for three consecutive years. In 2012, Tampa Bay outfielder Luke Scott made some disparaging remarks about Boston and the fans at Fenway, and Franklin Morales retaliated by throwing at him. The benches cleared.
Last June 10, Sox pitcher John Lackey hit Matt Joyce, who homered in his previous at-bat. Joyce shouted at Lackey but order was quickly restored after all the players came on the field.
Gomes believes there won’t be any retaliation this weekend.
“To me it’s over, total non-issue now,” he said Thursday. “Given the state of our team, we have to worry about winning games. I think Escobar went out of his way to start something, but that’s over with now.”
Gomes laughed when asked if he was worried about being hit by a pitch.
“I’ll be fine. I’m happy getting to first base,” he said. “If they want to send a message, please let it be me. I want to go to first base.”
The incident started when Escobar took third base on defensive indifference with the Rays leading by five runs in the seventh inning. Some Red Sox voiced their annoyance and Escobar answered back.
Escobar told reporters on Wednesday he got caught up in the moment and considers the matter settled. Rays manager Joe Maddon agreed.
“For me, it’s done, it’s over. It’s time to play baseball, let’s not worry about all this goofy little trivial crap that means nothing,” he said.
Ortiz pinch hits
David Ortiz was in the original lineup posted outside the clubhouse at 3 p.m. But that changed about an hour later when he was scratched with a sore right calf.
A.J. Pierzynski replaced him as the designated hitter and hit cleanup. He was 2 for 4 in the 4-3 victory against Atlanta and has hit safely in eight straight at 14 of 35 (.400).
Ortiz pinch hit in the eighth inning and was intentionally walked. He was then replaced by a pinch runner.
The 38-year-old Ortiz played his first two games in the field on Monday and Tuesday, putting in 18 innings at first base in Atlanta. He then beat out an infield single in third inning on Wednesday and all that took a toll on his legs.
“Precautionary in nature. Just have to manage the condition and the situation he’s dealing with,” manager John Farrell said.
Ortiz missed all but two games in the second half of the 2012 season with a strained right Achilles’ tendon and has received regular treatment since.
Farrell is hopeful Ortiz will be back in the lineup Friday.
Now that Clay Buchholz is on the disabled list, the Sox need a starter for Saturday’s game against the Rays. The choice is righthander Rubby De La Rosa.
De La Rosa is 2-3 with a 3.04 earned run average in 10 starts for Triple A Pawtucket. He gave up two earned runs over 11 innings in his last two starts and struck out 13 with three walks.
The Sox also considered Anthony Ranaudo and Allen Webster but made their decision based largely on the recommendation of the PawSox staff.
De La Rosa, 25, had a 5.56 ERA in 11 relief appearances for the Red Sox last season. He has not started in the majors since 2011 when he was with the Dodgers.
Drew gearing up
Stephen Drew was 0 for 4 and played the entire game at shortstop in his second game for Pawtucket. He is 4 of 15 in four minor league games so far.
Drew is eligible to join the Red Sox Monday in Cleveland. The Sox have said they would like him to get at least 25 plate appearances in the minors.
Ryan Lavarnway started his first major league game at first base but left in the fifth inning because of pain in his left wrist. He is scheduled for an MRI on Friday.
“I felt it happen in my first at-bat and it was hurting pretty bad. I was coming up again [in the fifth inning] and knew I couldn’t swing the bat,” Lavarnway said. “I wasn’t going to be able to take a hard swing. I was on deck and I thought somebody who was healthy should get in there.”
Lavarnway broke his left wrist in college but doesn’t believe this is related.
“That was a long time ago and this is on a different side,” he said. “Hopefully it’s not something serious.”
Daniel Nava replaced him at first. Mike Carp ended the game there. He is playing with a sore foot and is limited.
Brandon Workman went five innings and allowed three runs on five hits against the Rays on Sunday. He did not get a decision in an 8-5 Sox loss.
The righthander will face the Rays again Friday.
“I need to do a better job with strike zone. I was behind them too much,” he said. “Hopefully I picked up some things from that start I can use.”
Said Farrell: “The thing that stands out with Brandon is his ability to make a pitch in some key moments. He keeps an inning from unraveling on him. That’s partly because of his maturity and composure on the mound.”
Caution on Victorino
Shane Victorino is on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring and it maybe a while before he plays again.
“He’s still responding to treatment. We don’t have a date earmarked yet for his return to us. This is the second time he’s been dealing with the same injury. We’re going to be a little bit more cautious with that,” Farrell said.
Buchholz, who is out with a hyperextended left knee and a 7.02 ERA, is lined up to throw off a mound on Saturday as the Sox start the process of fixing his issues. Lefthander Felix Doubront, on the DL with a shoulder strain, played long toss Thursday and has been throwing regularly.
First baseman Mike Napoli, out because of a dislocated left ring finger, ran the bases during early batting practice. The swelling in his finger is going down and it seems likely he could be activated on June 8 when his 15 days are up.
It was 54 degrees at first pitch. The average game-time temperature for 29 games at Fenway has been 57.5 degrees. Only five games have started at 65 or better . . . The Rays were off Thursday and spent the day in Boston. David Price, who starts for the Rays on Friday, reported via Twitter that he enjoyed a round of golf at Granite Links in Quincy . . . The Sox have won six straight games against the Braves and 19 of the last 25 . . . The Sox are having a baseball and softball equipment collection during the Rays series. Fans are invited to drop off new and used baseball and softball equipment outside all Fenway Park gates. Donors will have the opportunity to win autographed memorabilia and other valuable prizes. The equipment will benefit the Kids Gear for Baseball organization, a Massachusetts-based non-profit that distributes equipment to children in need.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.