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 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 likely would 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,” said Maddon. “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 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, 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,” said Aceves. “I said, ‘Hey, man, what are you saying?’ It was not intentional.”
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,” said Farrell. “I can tell you this: We don’t intentionally look to hit any hitters in any situation. Whether or not he 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.”
Earlier this month, Aceves was in the middle of a brawl between Mexico and Canada in the World Baseball Classic, absorbing a series of punches from Canadian players.
Jose Iglesias was 2 for 4 with a triple, his sixth extra-base hit of the spring in 38 at-bats.
The shortstop had three extra-base hits in 68 major league at-bats last season and 11 in 353 at-bats for Triple A Pawtucket. Iglesias spent much of the winter working on his upper-body strength. He also has worked on driving the ball with more authority. “The aggressiveness in the swing and the hard contact has shown up here the times he’s been on the field,” said Farrell. “It’s been very encouraging.”
Outfielder Shane Victorino returned to Fort Myers Saturday after the United States was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic Friday night.
“We’re anxious to get him back in camp and get him some regular at-bats as well,” said Farrell, who plans to play Victorino against the Rays Sunday. “He’s in game shape. He just needs more consistency.”
Victorino was 1 of 11 in four games for the US and 2 for 5 in two exhibition games the team played. In all, he has had 27 at-bats this spring, which is right in line with other Red Sox players.
A bigger concern for the Sox would be getting Victorino in right field so he can develop good communication with center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Farrell also wants Victorino to play left field in some spring training road games. Once the season starts, Victorino will play left field in some road parks.
Two more moves
Catcher Dan Butler and righthander Alex Wilson were optioned to Pawtucket. Wilson pitched 7⅔ innings over six appearances and allowed one earned run on six hits. He struck out nine and walked two. “He had a very strong spring,” Farrell said. “Compared to a year ago, from talking to others who saw him last year, much better mound presence, more comfortable in the environment, threw a lot of strikes, didn’t fear contact,” Farrell said. Wilson will get work as a closer for Pawtucket as the Sox want to see him in high-leverage situations . . . Without saying it directly, Farrell indicated it was unlikely the Sox would keep Ryan Lavarnway as an extra catcher so that he or Jarrod Saltalamacchia could fill in for David Ortiz as the DH.
Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com.