FORT MYERS, Fla. --The Red Sox are ready for the opening bell. One week before their first regular-season game, excitable reliever Julian Tavarez punched Tampa Bay outfielder Joey Gathright lightly in the jaw Monday during a play at home plate Monday, the latest flareup between the teams.
Players ran from benches and bullpens but no injuries were reported as they clutched opponents and tried to keep their teammates from going after the other side.
The action came one day after Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett yelled at Philadelphia's Ryan Howard when the right-hander thought the first baseman took too long to watch what he may have thought was a homer but ended up being a long fly out.
Players ran on the field then, too, after Howard went to his spot at first base for the top of the seventh, threw his glove down, looked into Boston's dugout, talked back to Beckett and walked toward him. Beckett was restrained before he stepped back onto the field and no one threw any punches or shoves.
In Boston's 12-11 win, which ended when Hee-Seop Choi walked with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, Gathright raced home while Julio Lugo was caught in a rundown between first and second in the eighth. Second baseman Zach Borowiak threw to Tavarez, who tagged Gathright out as the outfielder slid.
Gathright said Tavarez stood on his right forearm after the tag. Tavarez agreed but said he wanted to beat Gathright to the punch.
"I saw him try to get up and I wasn't going to let him throw a punch at me right away," said Tavarez, who threw a second punch on the top of Gathright's head. "You hear about whoever throws the first punch gets the win. That's what happened."