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Did Youkilis ignite scrap?

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Globe Staff / June 7, 2008

Multiple Red Sox players confirmed yesterday that Thursday night's dugout altercation between Manny Ramírez and Kevin Youkilis resulted from Ramírez objecting to what he believed was excessive - and chronic - complaining about the strike zone by Youkilis in the dugout, as well as the first baseman's penchant for throwing equipment after at-bats.

Both Ramírez and Youkilis downplayed the incident.

"That was a misunderstanding," Ramírez said. "Even in the best family, you fight and stuff like that. But it's done, it's over with. We've got everything straightened out."

"The whole thing was basically a misunderstanding of words and stuff like that," Youkilis said. "To me, it's no big deal."

Before the fifth inning Thursday - and after the Red Sox-Rays punching session - Ramírez was caught on NESN cameras slapping Youkilis. The pair were also exchanging words, and had to be separated by teammates, coaches, and training staff. Youkilis headed out to the field still barking at Ramírez, while Ramírez was escorted into the tunnel leading to the clubhouse by bench coach Brad Mills and trainer Paul Lessard.

According to three sources, Ramírez had told Youkilis to "cut that [expletive] out." That was what provoked Youkilis and started the problem.

Neither player was in the clubhouse after Thursday's game.

The two hadn't spoken as of yesterday afternoon, though Youkilis indicated that was because Ramírez was getting treatment on the sore hamstring that had caused him to leave Thursday's game early.

"We'll talk, definitely," Youkilis said. "We've got 99 games left. It's a long season."

While sources had indicated that part of the problem was Youkilis's tossing of equipment in the dugout, the first baseman said, "I think it was a misunderstanding more than anything. I don't think it was because I threw something."

Youkilis did say, unequivocally, that the altercation had nothing to do with Ramírez's tardiness in getting involved in the second-inning brawl with the Rays, which occurred after James Shields hit Coco Crisp with a pitch. That fight led to suspensions for eight players. This one led to little more than other players downplaying both the issue and questions about team chemistry.

Ramírez did not want to speak about the reasons behind the altercation. He seemed to want to put it behind him, saying, "I think that's nobody's business. What happened happened, and we're going to move on. Like I said, don't worry about it. What happened happened. It's a new day. It's over."

The left fielder was out of the lineup last night, nursing a pulled hamstring. He said he didn't think it would cost him more than one game, though it did scare him at the moment.

Multiple players, as well as manager Terry Francona, emphasized that disagreements aren't unusual for a baseball team. With 25 players together constantly, there are bound to be issues. Often, though, the problems are tucked away in the clubhouse, out of sight of cameras. Those fights - or arguments - aren't broadcast for everyone to see.

"[The media] have been around me long enough to know how I usually answer things," Francona said. "Even if I don't say something, you can see some concern. We'd have closed the clubhouse. We had a lot of emotions going last night. Lots of things happen with teams that aren't seen, which certainly makes my job easier. When something like that happens, I'm not going to say we promote it, [but] it's not the end of the world.

"I think you can tell by how I'm answering, it just happened. Move on. Sometimes you're actually better off for it. Again, I don't know that we want to do that every day in the dugout, but I think you understand my point."

"That's the way it happens," Curt Schilling said. "That's always the way it happens on good teams. Bad teams let that stuff simmer and come up in September and October in crunch time when the games are big and that stuff boils over. We play with October intensity 162 days a year, mainly because of the fan base here and the expectations. So we play nightly like that. So when that stuff happens, it comes out immediately."

Does it happen more often that most people know?

"Times ten," Schilling said. "Nine out of those 10 times, you guys don't see it and it's none of your business and it happens without you knowing it. But it's a healthy thing. It's intensity. It's the way great teams function."

But this one was caught on camera. This one was immediately on display. It couldn't quite be held under wraps. Asked if normally he would try to solve problems of that nature out of the public eye, Youkilis said that was what he tried to do in most cases. And even though that didn't happen Thursday, he said there wouldn't be any ramifications, other than the footage being replayed over and over.

"There have been times this year, I've talked to guys, stuff like that," Youkilis said. "That's basically it. This stuff happens. This will not be the first time or the last time. You move on, try to win some ballgames. To me, it's not a big deal."

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