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Police investigating Yankees' bullpen fracas

A spokeswoman for the Boston Police Department said late last night that it is investigating a ninth-inning melee in the Yankee bullpen -- one that Red Sox officials say involved two Yankees assaulting a member of the Red Sox grounds crew -- and summonses may be issued, possibly charging the two players with assault.

"But we are looking for more detailed information before that happens," said the spokeswoman, Mariellen Burns. "We are looking to interview all the involved parties."

According to Dr. Charles Steinberg, the Red Sox' executive vice president of public affairs, Yankees pitcher Jeff Nelson and outfielder Karim Garcia, and possibly other members of the Yankees, attacked Paul Williams, a grounds crew member assigned to the bullpen, moments after Williams waved a rally rag at Sox fans in the Fenway stands.

Williams was at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center last night, receiving treatment for what the Sox claim to be multiple injuries, including cleat marks on his back and arms.

Steinberg also said that Major League Baseball, at the request of the Sox, last night began investigating the incident.

In the ninth, Williams turned to fans and exuberantly double-pumped a rally towel. It was then, said Steinberg, that Williams was set upon by Nelson and, later, Garcia, and possibly other teammates.

"It was to resonate with the fans," said Steinberg, explaining the intent behind Williams's towel waving. "If it was in poor taste, it didn't warrant the beating."

According to an Associated Press report, Nelson claimed Williams threw the first punch.

According to Sox general manager Theo Epstein, who was still sorting through details of the fracas approximately a half-hour after Boston's 4-3 loss, Williams was assigned to the Yankee bullpen. Steinberg explained that Williams's job is to manicure the two pitching mounds and he was posted in there as of approximately 3:45 p.m. By Epstein's description, Nelson was irritated when he saw Williams waving the towel in the bullpen and cheering for the Red Sox.

"The guy had been walking up and down [in the bullpen]," Nelson told reporters in the Yankee clubhouse after the game. "I said, `If you're going to wave that rally rag -- go over there and wave it.' "

By saying "over there," Nelson meant that Williams should have gone to the Red Sox' bullpen.

"I asked him nice," continued Nelson, "and he got in my face a little bit -- and I wasn't having it."

In the midst of Boston police and security personnel calming the melee, Garcia emerged with what appeared to be an injured left hand and had to be replaced in the field by Juan Rivera. Yankees manager Joe Torre said Garcia's hand had been bloodied, but the extent of his injuries was not known late last night.

Kevin Winter, a freelance radio reporter, interviewed Williams soon after the attack. According to Winter, Williams said, "I pumped my fist and Nelson jumped me."

At the hospital, a man who identified himself as Paul Williams Sr., father of the grounds crew member, said he couldn't believe what happened.

"I've never seen it before," said the senior Williams. "My son likes the Yankees. He's banged up right now. It doesn't sound like anything too serious." The younger Williams was seen leaving the hospital around 1:30 a.m. wearing a neck brace. Mac Daniel and John Powers of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Allen Vaughan contributed to this report.

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