PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Red Sox righty Alfredo Aceves was yet again the epicenter of commotion on Saturday in Boston's 9-2 win over the Rays.
Aceves hit Rays second baseman Sean Rodriguez in the fifth inning, in Rodriguez's first trip to the plate after hitting a two-run homer off Aceves in the third. The closest the teams came to brawling was when Rodriguez reached first base: The Rays dugout started to empty as the two jawed at each other, but Aceves and Rodriguez were both restrained and the Rays returned to their dugout quickly. The Sox, too, were about to pour onto the field.
The Sox led, 3-2, at the time, and Rodriguez had also singled off Aceves in the first. Aceves denied intent, but there is a history between the two.
"He was mad because he got hit," Aceves said. "It was obviously, like I said, not intentional. I understand, his last at-bat he hit a homer, he probably thinks it was intentional. Like I said, 3-2 ballgame, you don't want to get nobody on the bases and tie the game. Plus, like I say, it was a split-finger. I understand he's probably upset or frustrated."
"He says it got away from him," Rodriguez said. "I don't know if I agree or disagree, but I was just kind of upset when he was still jawing at me when I got to first. I kind of got riled up when I was over there. If you look at my track record, I don't mind getting hit by a pitch. I have no problem with that. Whether there was intent behind it or not, there's no way of knowing that. My opinion doesn't really matter at all."
Aceves hit Rodriguez with a pitch previously on Sept. 10, 2011. Fast forward to May 27, 2012, and Rodriguez launches a two-run homer in the ninth at Fenway Park that puts the Rays ahead and proves a game-winner.
Rodriguez didn't exactly burst out of the box on that May homer. Entering that at-bat, he was 0-for-8 against Aceves lifetime. Now, he's 1-for-9 in regular-season play.
Rodriguez said it was possible that Aceves remembered that May encounter.
"I think he remembered that [homer from last May], maybe," Rodriguez said.
The intensity of the barking appeared to pick up when Rodriguez reached first base.
Aceves has been something of a loose cannon for the Sox, getting into an argument with Dustin Pedroia last season and bizarrely lobbing in throws when he was supposed to be throwing hard during a batting-practice session this spring.
"When I asked Alfredo about it, he said he threw a split and it got away from him," Sox manager John Farrell said. "I can tell you this: We don't intentionally look to hit any hitters in any situations."
Aceves was immediately removed from the game by Farrell, not ejection, a decision Farrell said was not made based on the dust-up.
"Whether or not he got Rodriguez out, he was coming out of the game," Farrell said. "I can't stress enough that it's something we're not looking to intentionally do there."
Aceves had thrown 61 pitches.
Before the near tussle, the Sox got to Rays starter Roberto Hernandez early. Lyle Overbay drove in a pair of runs with a single in the first inning.
Hernandez finished with three runs allowed, two earned, in five innings. He struck out five and walked one.
MLB.com's No. 2 Red Sox prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. singled and scored in the first for the Red Sox. Ronald Bermudez and Blake Swihart also drove in a pair of runs.
Up next: The Red Sox and Rays meet again on Sunday, this time at JetBlue Park at 1:35 p.m. ET, for the sixth and final time this spring. Boston leads the series, 3-2. Potential Opening Day starter Jon Lester is scheduled to start for the Red Sox, with closer Joel Hanrahan scheduled to see action. Righty Alex Cobb goes for Tampa Bay.