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If you are a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays and you go to Yankee Stadium this weekend for the three-game series starting Friday, you may want to wear body armor. This will be the first meeting since the two teams duked it out like Tyson and Holyfield in Spring Training last month. This little feud actually started in Tampa when Yankees catching prospect Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli attempted to make a tag on Rays infielder Elliot Johnson as he attempted to score from 3rd base, when Johnson tried to knock the ball free from Cervelli's glove by lowering the shoulder and ramming the catcher with his helmet. The play resulted in Cervelli breaking his wrist.
First-year Yankee skipper Joe Girardi, a former catcher himself with the Chicago Cubs and the Yankees, said the play in question was somewhat excessive for Spring training. "I'm all for playing hard, but I don't think it's the time when you run over a catcher in spring training. I don't understand it. It happens in the season and, as a catcher, I understand that. But in spring training, I don't believe in it."
Rays skipper Joe Maddon put a different spin on it, "We try to play the game the same way on March 8 as we do on June 8. We don't differentiate between a spring training game and a regular-season game. We play it hard and we play it right every day. And I do believe the good people of New York City would want to see the Yankees do the same thing to a Rays catcher under similar circumstances."
Then a couple of days later, just when things were thought to be under control, they went at each other again. On March 12, in St. Petersburg, the two teams engaged in a benches clearing brawl, after Yankees Outfielder Shelley Duncan slid, spikes up, into second base, hitting Rays Second Baseman Akinori Iwamura in the upper leg (man region). Rays Outfielder Johnny Gomes then tackled Duncan, leading to both benches clearing.
From what I remember, Duncan and Gomes have served their suspensions or are having their appeals heard.
It could be either carnage on the field this weekend or two good baseball teams playing the game the way it was intended. Let's hope for the latter.