After Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney nearly hit Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera in the head Saturday, Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist was hit on the shoulder by Tigers starter Rick Porcello in the first inning Sunday.
Rodney's pitch that came too close for comfort for Cabrera made headlines, as Cabrera was visibly perturbed and could be seen jawing from the dugout after the ensuing strikeout.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said after the incident, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times:
Said Maddon after Zobrist was plunked, via Topkin:
Tigers manager Jim Leyland, meanwhile, said that he didn't feel Rodney was intentionally trying to hit Cabrera but also said that a pitcher has to be in control when throwing inside. Leyland said, per John Lowe of USA Today:
He was just winding up and throwing it. I'm not indicating he was trying to throw at him at all. But you've got to know where you're going with it if you're going to throw inside. You can't just be pot-lucking and if it's up in the head area, that's OK. That's not acceptable.
In the heat of competition, athletes will always stand up for themselves. You have to understand, not only is a pitch near the head seen as a challenge or a sign of disrespect by many of these athletes, it also can be career-threatening.
We cannot say for sure that the Tigers were taking retaliatory measures, but it certainly wouldn't surprise me. Teammates stick up for each other, and it's quite possible that Porcello and Co. were standing up for Cabrera. Porcello gave up three earned runs in six innings and eventually took the loss in the 3-1 Rays win in Tampa Bay Sunday.