BOSTON -- You'll have to excuse David Ross. He may be a bit more sensitive than most to seeing 90-mile-per-hour fastballs buzzing around his helmet.
In the seventh inning of a 4-2 Red Sox win over the Orioles on Saturday afternoon, Ross was called upon to sacrifice bunt. The score was tied, 2-2, and Mike Carp led off the inning with a walk. Ross' job was to put his teammate in scoring position.
When the Sox catcher squared to bunt, Norris missed high with a fastball. It happened twice more, the third ball zipping underneath Ross' chin.
For a player who missed about a third of last season after suffering two separate concussions, the close calls were not taken lightly.
Norris told reporters after the game that Ross shouted at him to "make an adjustment."
"Just a couple pulled balls at my head and it kind of rattled me a little bit," Ross said later. "Probably said some things I shouldn't have said. But it's all good. Baseball stuff."
As Ross and Norris went back and forth, Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters inserted himself into the heated conversation and both benches cleared.
"I was telling him where I was at, and he was telling me where he was at," Ross said. "I definitely don't think it was on purpose. Just a natural reaction, three balls at my head. Just kind of, you know . . . Probably shouldn't have yelled at him for it."
Ross admitted that his time spent away from the game last year because of his head injuries may have played a role in his getting so emotional. Normally, he's among the more affable and easygoing players in the Red Sox clubhouse.
"I think I'm a little sensitive to balls around my dome after having two concussions last year, missing two months," he said. "That may have been part of it. But I think looking back, I'm not usually a guy that does that too often. But balls at my head -- and it's tough to see late in the ballgame with the shadows. I think probably all that stuff -- trying to get down the bunt and not happening -- probably played into it."
When the benches cleared, David Ortiz was one of the first players coming out of the home dugout. Though no punches were thrown and the players from the two teams barely even got near one another, Ortiz did shout some things in Norris' direction.
"I think the guy (Norris) at the time, he probably got tired, kind of lost control of the strike zone a little bit," Ortiz said. "A couple pitches got away from him. There's a lot of adrenaline going on at the same time. And my boy Rossy, he's always a little hyper. The good thing is that nothing happened. Everybody stayed right there and the situation didn't get worse. But it happens. Part of the game, man."
Red Sox manager John Farrell wasn't surprised to see the tensions escalate the way they did given the location of Norris' pitches.
"There were three pitches that I think got away from Norris, that ended up close to the head," Farrell said. "I think that's where the location of pitches -- that close up and in -- is where it might draw some reaction. Obviously it did. Not surprised that we're going to support and have one another's back on the field. Nothing really escalated from it, but just a competitive moment."
Ross said it was nice to see his teammates come out and support him, though he said that what they did was nothing out of the ordinary.
"I don't question anybody's heart in this clubhouse or who's got whose back," he said. "That doesn't show support . . . It does, but you know, we've got a lot of guys in here that care about each other. I don't think any team that I've ever been on would be different. I can say that."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was livid with Ted Barrett's umpiring crew since both teams received warnings following the incident. Showalter indicated after the game that perhaps things should have been handled differently since Doubront hit Chris Davis in the sixth inning without any warning.
"There was a warning issued to us because of David's reaction. Maybe we should have reacted when Chris got hit with a 2-0 fastball from Doubront in a one-run game. But we don't react . . . We got a warning because of Ross' reaction. Go figure."
Ross explained after the game that there's a chance Norris may have tried to pitch him high, since in an obvious sacrifice situation, a high pitch that is bunted is more likely to be popped up. Ross was hesitant to say that he believed that was Norris' strategy, however.
"Maybe. Maybe. I don't necessarily...If you want to throw it high, you know, I think everybody depends," Ross said. "Some guys will throw it high. Definitely after a while you...When I was in the National League, when pitchers were up we wanted to do it high. Not so much position players, just in case they were swinging. Pitchers we would.
"If he knew I was bunting, he may have been trying to throw it up little bit in the zone to get me to pop it up. That's definitely a strategy. Again, I don't think it was on purpose. I don't."
Ross did pop up the next pitch and O's first baseman Chris Davis nearly made a diving catch in foul ground. With a full count, Ross struck out swinging on a slider from Norris.
The failed sacrifice attempt ended up not being an issue for the Red Sox after Brock Holt tripled in the next at-bat, scoring Carp from first to give Boston a 3-2 lead.