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Some growling by Tigers

It gets a bit wild after Beckett hits 2 batters

Umpire Marty Foster holds back Sox coach DeMarlo Hale; Tigers coach Lloyd McClendon does the same to Todd Jones in a fifth-inning scuffle. (PAUL SANCYA/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Red Sox and Tigers kicked off what could be a heated rivalry this season with a spirited and emotional exhibition game yesterday in which there was a bench- and bullpen-clearing scrum.

It started in the first inning, when the Sox' Josh Beckett hit Gary Sheffield in the ribs with a fastball.

Then Tigers right fielder Magglio Ordonez suffered a left ear contusion when hit by a Beckett curveball in the third inning (tests at a local hospital were negative).

Tigers closer Todd Jones threw two errant pitches at J.D. Drew in the fifth and was immediately ejected by plate umpire Larry Vanover.

Detroit manager Jim Leyland began jawing with Vanover and Sox third base coach DeMarlo Hale, which prompted the benches and bullpens to empty. No punches were thrown.

While the Red Sox downplayed the incident after their 7-6 victory, Leyland was still irritated after the game, snapping at a reporter.

"You're not going to get anything more from me," he said. "You're looking for [expletive], that's what you're looking for."

Before Ordonez had returned from the hospital, Leyland said he was concerned about his player because "any time someone gets hit in the head, a red flag goes up. I'm sure he's got a pretty good knock."

The manager later said Beckett "throws a real hard breaking ball. It stings a little bit, obviously."

Beckett, who had trouble with his control in allowing five runs (two earned), four hits, and one walk in 3 2/3 innings, also came in tight on Brandon Inge, who moved away, the ball hitting his bat just above his fingers.

When Sheffield got hit, he stared out at Beckett and shouted. According to Sheffield, Beckett yelled back, "It hit the bat. It hit the bat," but Sheffield said he responded, "It hit me in the ribs."

Beckett said he thought Ordonez was frozen by the breaking pitch.

"I talked to Vanover [and said], 'I'm not trying to hit this guy,' " Beckett said. "It was one of those deals where it buckled him and he went the wrong way. I was fortunate enough that it didn't hit him in the neck."

Sox manager Terry Francona said of the words between Leyland and Hale, "Jimmy was aggravated. It just happens sometimes."

Drew was as surprised as anyone. Normally, he said, he can gauge when he's going to be thrown at, but a high-and-tight fastball caught him off-guard. Then, said Drew, "I knew what was coming."

Beckett said he wasn't surprised Jones got tossed.

"We had a meeting about that this year," Beckett said. "If the umpire feels it was intentional, he can just throw you out of the game [with no warning]."

"I didn't think Beckett was throwing at anybody," Vanover said. "In my judgment, I thought he was trying to keep the hitters off the plate and keep [them] honest."

"Both sides made their point," said Inge. "Now it's water under the bridge."

Beckett also collided with Sheffield while covering the plate. He said he suffered the equivalent of a "stinger" around his jaw but the sensation went away.

Timlin optimistic
Mike Timlin doesn't believe his strained left oblique will keep him from being available Opening Day.

"We still have, what, 20 days?" he said. "I'll tell you something, spring training after [your first] two years, it really doesn't mean a whole lot. I don't need that much time to get ready."

In describing how he hurt himself, he said, "I threw to hitters the other day and it felt a little tight and I woke up the next morning and I was really sore, so they said, 'OK, let's not hurt it anymore.' "

Timlin, who had been scheduled to pitch yesterday before the setback, was in Lakeland because he lives in Tarpon Springs, which is closer to Lakeland than Fort Myers.

Lester deal confirmed
Jon Lester agreed to a one-year deal for $384,000, his agent, Alan Nero confirmed. Lester, who is scheduled to throw a simulated game to minor leaguers today, might start the season at Pawtucket, or he could stay in extended spring training. Francona said he may want to get Lester into a real game soon . . . Hideki Matsui will make the trip to Fort Myers with the Yankees tomorrow night. Matsui and Sox lefthander Hideki Okajima were teammates for years with the Yomiuri Giants, which should provide zillions of photo and TV opportunities for the Japanese media . . . Dustin Pedroia was charged with two errors. He booted Curtis Granderson's grounder in the first, but on the next batter, Placido Polanco, he got a bad feed from shortstop Alex Cora . . . Eric Hinske's grand slam sparked a five-run first inning for the Sox.