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Maddon: Scrum was ‘cowardly’

By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / May 26, 2012
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It was obvious, at least to the Tampa Bay Rays, where the blame should be placed for the ninth-inning incident at Fenway Park Friday night that emptied both benches and brought relief pitchers sprinting in from the bullpen.

Red Sox reliever Franklin Morales hit Rays designated hitter Luke Scott with a pitch, after starting the at-bat by throwing behind the lefthanded batter. Scott took a few steps toward Morales, was cut off by Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, then got swallowed up in the swarming scrum, with players and coaches pushing and shoving their way around the home-plate area.

No ejections were handed down. But following the game, the Rays left no doubt how they viewed the exchange.

“I thought the play was dirty, so we were all there for [Scott]. That’s what it boils down to,’’ said Tampa Bay first baseman Carlos Pena, who was jawing with Sox pitching coach Bob McClure. “Our whole dugout knew it was coming, so when it actually happened you’re like there it is, what other proof do you need? [Morales] goes out there and gets two quick outs, throws strikes, and all of a sudden he can’t find the strike zone? We just thought it was dirty.’’

Rays manager Joe Maddon was even stronger, especially when asked who initiated it.

“Trust me, it’s not us,’’ Maddon said. “I have no idea on their side, but just watching the video, the people that were incensed, obviously they’re the ones that were probably behind the effort, the really weak, cowardly effort on their part.

“Did I say that strongly enough? Did I make my point?’’

Earlier in the game, Dustin Pedroia was hit by Burke Badenhop. In a game this month in Tampa, the teams took turns hitting batters: Adrian Gonzalez was hit in the first inning, then the Sox drilled Scott in the third.

Now this. Was Morales plunking Scott payback for Pedroia getting nailed? From the previous series? From the critical comments Scott made in April about Fenway Park?

“I didn’t understand the situation whatsoever, it was not called for at all,’’ Maddon said. “I’m kind of curious regarding who put out the hit, because I know it wasn’t one of their players. By the way their players reacted to the entire situation, I knew it did not come from them.

“It’s kind of incompetent behavior, it’s the kind of behavior that gets people hurt on your own side by choosing to do something so ridiculous.’’

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine had his own theory.

“The guy getting hit? Maybe it was the Ghost of Fenway Past remembering that he bad-mouthed all our fans and stadium.’’

Scott was one of the last Rays to emerge from the trainer’s room after the game, a big red welt visible on his right knee. He chose his words carefully.

“I’ll respond this way: I respect every team and every player that I play against. And from what I know about Morales, I know that he’s a pretty good guy,’’ Scott said. “It’s obvious where it came from, and at the end of the day, you reap what you sow.’’

The dust-up ultimately overshadowed much of the game, and the focus now turns to Saturday night, when each team’s ace takes the mound - Josh Beckett for the Sox, David Price for the Rays. Asked if his team will retaliate, Scott said simply, “Ask the manager.’’

Said Maddon: “We don’t initiate anything, I promise you that. I’d like to believe we handle ourselves in a classier manner than that, I believe that we play the game properly. There’s no vengeance in our soul, there’s none of that crap.

“But we will respond to others that do attempt to do it to us. I promise you that, too.’’

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.

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