For the second straight day, the Red Sox were involved in a bench-clearing incident in a spring training game.
In the top of the eighth, Sox reliever Julian Tavarez threw a punch at Devil Rays outfielder Joey Gathright after he slid into home plate (with Tavarez covering). Tavarez connected with a right to Gathright’s chin.
After having hit a batter, enduring an error behind him and committing another himself in the inning, Tavarez already appeared to be irritated at the time of the incident.
Here’s how it went down …
After the two fielding mistakes by the Sox, Tavarez’s first pitch to Julio Lugo was high and tight. With Gathright already on second base, Lugo went on to get a hit, but got caught between first and second.
Recognizing they had Lugo in a pickle, Sox catcher Ken Huckaby ran out toward him while keeping an eye on Gathright, who had moved to third and was partway down the third base line.
Huckaby threw to infielder Zach Borowiak to try to nab Lugo. When he did, Gathright broke to the plate, forcing Tavarez to cover home. Borowiak threw to Tavarez, Gathright slid, and Tavarez tagged him (Tavarez might have gotten spiked).
Tavarez then connected with a punch, and players rushed the field. Jonathan Papelbon came running out from the bullpen, and he and Papa Jack pulled Gathright out of the scrum.
Devil Rays outfielder Carl Crawford and Gathright were gesturing toward the Sox dugout, but there were no other incidents (though we believe Tavarez was yelling from the dugout).
In the bottom of the eighth, newly acquired Red Sox first baseman Hee-Seop Choi was plunked by Rays pitcher Wayne Franklin, and the umps warned both sides.
The Red Sox and Devil Rays, of course, have a history of bench-clearing incidents. Here’s a look back at an incident from last April.
More details and quotes to come …