BOSTON -- For the first time since his return from the disabled list, Alex Rodriguez found himself on the receiving end of a message delivered in the form of a high-and-tight fastball.
The Red Sox's Ryan Dempster drilled Rodriguez in the back of the left elbow during his first plate appearance in Sunday night's 9-6 victory for the Yankees, prompting home-plate umpire Brian O'Nora to warn both benches and leading to the ejection of Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
"Everyone knows it was intentional," Girardi said.
Rodriguez led off the second inning and Dempster led off the at-bat with a low fastball that tailed behind A-Rod's legs. The next two pitches also sailed inside to the Yankees third baseman, who is playing while he appeals a 211-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use and other infractions.
With the crowd at Fenway Park chanting, "You're a cheater" to Rodriguez, Dempster uncorked a 92-mph fastball that connected with the hitter.
"No," Dempster said when asked if he did it intentionally. "I was trying to pitch him inside."
The theory was supported by Red Sox manager John Farrell, who said the scouting report on A-Rod was to stay inside. But Girardi wasn't buying it.
With Rodriguez slowly walking to first base, O'Nora immediately issued emphatic warnings to both benches but permitted Dempster to remain in the game. That incensed Girardi, who spiked his hat to the Fenway turf while earning his second ejection of the season.
"Ryan Dempster has hit six guys in the last 320 innings," Girardi said. "He threw the first ball behind him, intentional. He threw the next one inside, he didn't hit him, intentional. At some point, Brian O'Nora has got to give him a warning. And he should've thrown him out of the game is the bottom line.
"I don't understand why he's left in the game and then to give us a warning? Brian and I have a long history together back in A ball, Double-A, and I respect him. But that was wrong, and the one thing you can't do is you can't start changing the system because maybe you don't like it.
"Ryan Dempster has been a player rep and has been very involved in the union. He knows these guys, this is what they decided to do, so you can't change it just to take your pot shots. And you'd have to have your head in the sand with the comments that came from the other side not to know that something might be up. I thought it was handled very poorly, and I was upset about yesterday because calls went against us that changed the complexion of the game. Then you have this. It's just flat wrong."
When asked whether Dempster should be suspended, Rodriguez said, "I'm the wrong guy to ask about suspensions."
Dempster, Farrell, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Shane Victorino all voiced their rejection to Girardi's position, insisting the hit-by-pitch was purely accidental.
"It's all part of the game," Victorino said. "However [the Yankees] want to interpret it, we all understand the situation."
Rodriguez gained a measure of revenge in the sixth, taking Dempster deep to center field for a solo homer to bring the Yankees to within two runs of the Red Sox and help ignite a four-run rally. A-Rod called it the "ultimate payback," and the homer was the 649th of his career, leaving him 11 shy of Willie Mays, who is fourth on baseball's all-time list.
While several big leaguers have openly questioned Rodriguez's presence on the diamond during his appeal process, Dempster is the first pitcher who appears to have thrown at Rodriguez in his 12 games thus far.
"Whether you like me or hate me, that was wrong," Rodriguez said. "It was unprofessional and silly. Kind of a silly way to get somebody hurt on your team as well."
The Yankees never retaliated in the game, but Rodriguez said he felt supported by his manager and teammates based on their reaction after the hit-by-pitch. He said Girardi's explosion in his defense was incredible.
"I love the guy," Rodriguez said of Girardi. "He has always been there for me."
The display was costly for the Red Sox, who led 2-0 at the time of the HBP. Rodriguez later moved to third base on Curtis Granderson's double and scored on Eduardo Nunez's single, and Lyle Overbay lifted a game-tying sacrifice fly later in the inning.
Girardi said he hopes Major League Baseball takes some action by suspending Dempster.
"You can't allow it to happen," Girardi said. "You don't allow people just to be thrown at because you don't like them or you disagree with someone. You can't do that."