Rays-Yanks feud over ... for a day
Saturday's game is an incident-free one, to relief of many
TAMPA, Fla. -- It looks like the Rays-Yankees feud has run its course, at least for the time being.
One play personified that sentiment Saturday afternoon at Legends Field, where the two teams met for the third time this spring.
With Alex Rodriguez on first base and one out in the bottom of the fourth, Jorge Posada doubled to right field. Rays right fielder Eric Hinske quickly fielded the ball and threw to second baseman Akinori Iwamura, who made the relay throw home.
Rodriguez disregarded third-base coach Bobby Meacham's signal for him to hold up on the play. Iwamura's throw to the plate clearly arrived in catcher Josh Paul's mitt long before the reigning American League Most Valuable Player reached home.
Here we go again?
Nope. A-Rod pulled up short of home plate and came to a stop in front of Paul to almost embrace the catcher's tag for the second out of the inning. Rodriguez then smiled, as did most everybody in the ballpark -- particularly the Yankees' dugout.
"It was an out for the Rays," was all that Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon had to say about the play.
Was Rodriguez mocking the Rays?
"You'd have to ask [Rodriguez]," Maddon said. "I just know we got an out."
Rodriquez simply said that the incident is "all behind us now" -- or so he hoped.
"We have a lot of respect for that team," Rodriguez said. "We want to make sure we're back to playing baseball."
Both Paul and Iwamura had left the ballpark by the time the Rays' clubhouse had opened, so their reactions about the play were not heard.
Fireworks were ignited between the two teams a week earlier when Tampa Bay reserve Elliot Johnson steamrolled New York catcher Francisco Cervelli at home plate, breaking Cervelli's right wrist in the process. The Rays maintained that the play was simply "hard-nosed baseball," while the Yankees considered the play too intense for Spring Training.
The Rays and Yankees met again on Wednesday, and tensions escalated in the top of the second inning, when New York's Shelley Duncan slid with spikes high into Iwamura at second base. Subsequently, right fielder Jonny Gomes charged in to tackle Duncan, both benches then emptied, and, apparently, at some point in the action, Yankees outfielder Melky Cabrera hit third baseman Evan Longoria in the head.
On Friday, Gomes received a two-game suspension along with a $2,000 fine, while Duncan and Cabrera each received fines and three-game suspensions. New York manager Joe Girardi, third-base coach Bobby Meacham and hitting coach Kevin Long were also fined for their roles in the incident.
A meeting between Maddon, Girardi and the umpires did not take place before Saturday's game, which finished without any further incidents.
"I was pleased we didn't have to have a meeting," Maddon said. "And [I was] very pleased [with] the way both teams played today."
Duncan, who has been in the eye of the storm all week, also sounded relieved about the way Saturday's game was played.
"I just want us to play good hard baseball against each other," Duncan said. "I really respect [Maddon]. I get along with him."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.