Benches clear in Red Sox-Rays game

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Benches cleared in the bottom of the sixth inning in tonight’s game between the Red Sox and Rays after John Lackey hit Matt Joyce in the back with a pitch.

Joyce, who homered off Lackey in the first inning, immediately suspected intent and began gesturing toward the mound. As Evan Drellich of MassLive.com notes, the errant pitch may not have been in retaliation to the home run, but instead to Joyce “styling” on a foul ball in the second inning. But that’s just speculation for now.

Joyce was restrained by catcher Jarrod Saltalmacchia as both benches emptied. No punches were thrown and order was quickly restored, but warnings were issued to both sides.

Lackey was pulled from the game after giving up a double to the next batter Ben Zobrist, but left-hander Craig Breslow was able to snuff out the rally. The Red Sox hold a 6-4 lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.