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David Ortiz says strict rules have softened Yankees-Red Sox rivalry

Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz runs

Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz runs on his single hit against the New York Yankees in the second inning of a baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Friday, April 10, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Remember when Pedro Martinez hit Karim Garcia in the upper back with a pitch behind his neck and Manny Ramirez took exception to a high (but not all that inside) pitch from Roger Clemens in Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS? It led to a scuffle that featured Martinez grabbing Don Zimmer by the head and flinging the bench coach to the ground at Fenway Park.

Or the following year in Boston, when Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek squared off in the main event after A-Rod got plunked by Bronson Arroyo.

The Yankees and Red Sox have been raging rivals for what seems like eternity.

The rivalry was renewed Friday night at Yankee Stadium, but there has been something missing in the eyes of David Ortiz. Big Papi believes these matchups don't carry quite the same intensity because of the repercussions for throwing at hitters and charging the mound.

"The rules right now are very strict," Ortiz said. "Even when you have a guy throw a pitch close to a hitter or anything like that happens on the field, there's always a warning. [Batters getting brushed back or hit] was a big part of what this rivalry used to be. Because that ain't happening anymore, it seems like the rivalry is not the same.

"It's still the same way we play the game. We want to beat up each other the professional way. The beast mode is kind of down low.

"There's a lot of money involved. You don't want to have a guy making 20 million on the bench missing two weeks because a guy hit him on purpose or missing two weeks because he's swinging at somebody."

It's better this way, according to the 39-year-old DH.

"You don't want your kid to watch a guy swinging at another like this is WWF or whatever," Ortiz said.

His manager, though, still feels the electricity.

"That's not to say David doesn't know firsthand," John Farrell said. "He's been in the lineup every day for the last 12, 13 years here."

The Red Sox finished last in the AL East in 2014 despite Ortiz's 35 homers and 104 RBIs. But he's encouraged by the players Boston acquired, including Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, who hit 4-5 behind him.

"We're going to wait to find out," Ortiz said. "But on paper, it looks like it's going to be better than last year."

Ortiz downplayed any rift with Rodriguez, whom he hadn't spoken with for a good while after fallout from the Biogenesis scandal. A-Rod hit his first homer of the season Thursday night against the Blue Jays.

"Good for him," Ortiz said. "I'm happy for him. The guy has been through a lot lately."


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