Tension doesn't boil over in rematch
Yankees, Rays prove civil following Wednesday's fracas
TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez delivered the baseball equivalent of a cease-fire on Saturday, helping peace be restored after a week of back-and-forth ugliness between the Yankees and Rays.
Rounding third base on a fourth-inning double by Jorge Posada, Rodriguez saw the relay throw home from right field beat him by about five feet.
Instead of crashing into Tampa Bay catcher Josh Paul in a reprisal of the play that sparked a contentious seven-day span on the same diamond, A-Rod simply slowed and allowed Paul to softly tag him out.
"I think that's all behind us now. I hope so," Rodriguez said. "We have a lot of respect for that team. We want to make sure we're back to playing baseball."
Rodriguez had actually been waved home by third-base coach Bobby Meacham before running through a stop sign. Meacham then decided again to wave home Rodriguez, who stopped in his tracks before he even reached the chalk outline of the batter's box.
"Alex probably made a good decision," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think everyone's trying to turn the page."
Rodriguez had already showered and left Legends Field when Yankees catching prospect Francisco Cervelli was upended last Saturday, a jarring hit by Rays infielder Elliot Johnson that fractured the catcher's right wrist and prompted Girardi's ire toward what he felt was an unnecessary play.
On Wednesday, Rodriguez had been left off the travel roster when the Rays and Yankees scuffled in a benches-clearing incident at Progress Energy Park in St. Petersburg. He wouldn't see Shelley Duncan's spikes-high slide into Akinori Iwamura, nor Jonny Gomes' charging hit from right field, unless it was featured on a sports highlight show.
Despite his admitted detachment from both incidents, Rodriguez was clearly aware of what it would have meant if he'd slammed into Paul. Luckily for Grapefruit League relations, A-Rod was more interested in keeping his health intact for the regular season.
"That could have been a big story," he smiled.
One day after Duncan and Melky Cabrera were hit with three-game suspensions for their roles in Wednesday's fracas, plus a two-game suspension for Gomes, there were no warnings issued between the two clubs. Major League Baseball did provide an additional umpire, Jerry Crawford, just to make sure order was kept.
Even a statement from Yankees general partner Hank Steinbrenner didn't ruffle feathers. Steinbrenner told the New York Post: "There are going to be problems, especially if they go after our stars. It's not going to be tolerated. We never have done it to them. It's just not going to happen anymore."
Steinbrenner added: "I don't want these teams in general to forget who subsidizes a lot of them, and it's the New York Yankees, the Red Sox, Dodgers, New York Mets. I would prefer, if teams want to target the Yankees, that they at least start giving some of that revenue sharing and luxury tax money back. From an owner's point of view, that's my point."
Rays manager Joe Maddon was asked if he perceived Steinbrenner's comments as threatening.
"Honestly, he's the owner of the ballclub, so he has the right to say whatever he wants," Maddon said. "I really don't want to go back and forth with him; that's his comments, that's his perception of the situation, and I respect that."
The events of the last week did not keep Girardi from penciling Duncan in at first base, even though the Rays altered their plans by playing Gomes in a split-squad game against the Braves at Disney World.
"I'm trying to move on," Girardi said before the game.
Though there were a smattering of boos from fans in attendance at Legends Field, Duncan's afternoon proved ultimately uneventful. The 28-year-old went 0-for-2 and reached on an error before yielding first base to Nick Green.
"It was a normal game. It was nice because you can focus on baseball," Duncan said. "Everything that happened the last couple of days with those guys really wasn't on my mind. I was really focused on the game today."
Duncan said that he had not yet decided if he would appeal his suspension, though he planned to speak with his agent, Barry Meister, to evaluate those options. He said that he bore no ill will toward Maddon for his comments last week, saying that he respects the Rays manager and gets along with him.
Cooler heads were in vogue all around. In a pregame scrum with reporters at Legends Field, Maddon said that the drama between the two clubs would end.
"Let's stop this today," Maddon said. "Let's stop the madness and move on."
That plea sounded fine to Duncan, who actually maintains some family history with Maddon. The future Rays manager once spent several weeks instructing a baseball clinic in Europe with Duncan's family, though Shelley was not on that trip.
"They're a great family, and I do know Shelley because of that," Maddon said. "I know he's a wonderful young man. It's just one of those incidents. Knowing the family background, I know he's a very good person."
"I just want us to play good hard baseball against each other," Duncan said.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.