Over? Did you say over?
The Red Sox-Rays rivalry has turned into one of Major League Baseball's nastier feuds. And even after multiple suspensions for the teams' last dustup, in which brushback pitches and punches were thrown, it's not over, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon said.
Papelbon, who has a weekly segment on a Boston-area sports talk show, said Wednesday that the Red Sox are not finished paying back the Rays. And while he also credited Tampa Bay for the way it has stayed in the AL East race, he didn't mince words about what the Rays can expect when the two teams meet again for a three-game series in St. Petersburg, Fla., beginning June 30.
"In my opinion, it is a bunch of bull what they did," Papelbon said on "Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight" on Comcast Sportsnet, referring to last week's brawl between the two teams. "All I got to say is what comes around goes around, man. Payback's a b----, I'll tell you what."
With first place in the AL East on the line, tempers started to flare again between the teams on June 4 on a pair of plays on the baselines involving Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp.
After a play at second, in which Crisp felt shortstop Jason Bartlett blocked the bag, Crisp slid hard into second baseman Akinori Iwamura on a stolen base attempt. Crisp and Rays manager Joe Maddon exchanged words about the incidents later in the game.
The tempers carried over to their June 5 game when Crisp was hit in the right hip by James Shields in the second inning. Crisp rushed the mound, ducked a wild right by Shields and threw a punch, and the Rays' Jonny Gomes rushed into the pile and started throwing punches at Crisp as both benches cleared.
In all, eight players were handed suspensions and fines.
Two days later, when punishment was meted out, Maddon did not back down. "I want to be very clear: I defend everything our guys did," he said last Saturday. "I feel actually proud of the way we handled the situation that was presented."
On Wednesday, Papelbon wasn't backing down, either.
"In my opinion, and the way I feel right now, this thing isn't all settled and done," Papelbon said. "We still got to play them a few more times. And I know when we go into Tropicana things will be a little different than when went in there last time."
The Rays swept a three-game series from the Red Sox on April 25-27 at Tropicana Field.
The Rays and Red Sox have had differences since 1999, when then-Rays outfielder Gerald Williams charged the mound after he was hit on the hand by a Pedro Martinez pitch. The teams have been exchanging words, inside pitches and punches ever since.
But now, the Rays are fighting for the AL East lead, too, and Papelbon is aware that they're a team to be reckoned with.
"Those guys have a lot of talent over there. Obviously, as you can see, it's a war when we go play those guys," Papelbon said. "It's the big leagues and you got guys that can pitch over there and you got some guys that can hit, so we've got to do everything we can to stay atop of those guys and keep fending them off because they can play."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.