Ryan Dempster hits Alex Rodriguez with a fastball, umpire ejects Joe Girardi

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After the Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, third baseman Alex Rodriguez led off the top of the second inning for the Yankees. Sox starter Ryan Dempster’s first pitch to Rodriguez was a fastball that went behind him towards his legs. Dempster’s next two pitches were waist-high inside, and on the fourth pitch Dempster plunked Rodriguez in the shoulder with a fastball. A very pleased Red Sox crowd became raucous, cheering in support of their pitcher. The benches cleared, but no punches were thrown.

Home plate umpire Brian O’Nora immediately issued warnings to both dugouts. An irate Joe Girardi stormed out of the Yankees dugout pleading for Dempster to be ejected. Instead, Girardi was tossed and the game resumed with Dempster allowed to continue his outing despite the rather obvious intent of his previous four pitches. Yankees starter CC Sabathia did not retaliate on behalf of Rodriguez.

On Friday, Red Sox starter John Lackey told the media that he thinks A-Rod shouldn’t be playing baseball. Girardi fired back, telling Lackey that if he doesn’t like A-Rod’s right to play while he appeals his 211-game suspension, he should help negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.

Personal battles aside, this is an important game for both teams. At the moment, the 73-52 Red Sox have a tenuous 1.5-game lead over the second-place Rays in the AL East while the 63-59 Yankees are just 6.5 games out of the second Wild Card in the American League.

Update: Here’s a .gif of the first and fourth pitches of the at-bat, courtesy @Triples_Alley.

Baseball to honor Stoneman Douglas High School as spring training games begin

New Era
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There were a few exhibitions against college teams yesterday but today the Grapefruit League and Cactus League schedules begin in earnest, with big league teams, more or less, facing big league team, more or less.

The baseball will look like baseball, but the teams will be wearing different caps today: black caps with the maroon “SD” of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting on February 14.

All teams and umpire crews will wear the caps pre-game, and they have the option to wear the caps during the games. The only two teams not playing today — the Royals and Rangers — will wear them tomorrow.

After the games players will sign the caps and they will be auctioned off to raise money for the Broward Education Foundation, which benefits the official Stoneman Douglas Victims’ Fund.

Here’s today’s schedule: