By Will Burchfield
Baseball is full of unwritten rules.
When a fight breaks out in the infield, for example, the relievers from each team must come running in from the bullpen.
"It's a little odd, they're basically running side by side. In that sense it's a little bit comical," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, whose team was involved in a benches-clearing dustup versus the Twins on Saturday. "I don't know that I've ever seen it happen differently, though. I think it's just a show of support for their teammates."
More often than not, things cool down before the relievers arrive, at which point they turn around and saunter back. Michael Fulmer finds the bullpen spectacle especially funny.
"It's hilarious, honestly. And everybody's on a dead sprint, too, they're not jogging from the bullpen. If I was out there," he laughed, "I'd be on my hands and knees trying to catch my breath before I have to run back. But they want in that action to protect their teammates as well."
Perhaps the strangest part of the whole routine is that the relievers typically wait to engage in any kind of standoff until they reach the infield.
"I'm sure it has happened where the bullpens start going at it before they even get in there," said Ausmus, "but normally, what happened Saturday is standard. They jog in side by side, turn around and jog back."
Fulmer is often puzzled by the same thing.
"Seeing them, I told myself, I don't know how the two bullpens don't come out on the field and just start talking to each other instead of running all the way in and talking to everyone. But it's just kind of the game of baseball, it has its own quiet rules about it," he said.
Saturday's scrap was instigated when Matt Boyd threw behind Miguel Sano, seemingly as retaliation for JaCoby Jones getting drilled in the face two innings earlier. Sano then pointed at Boyd and began walking toward the mound, prompting catcher James McCann to step in between the two. Sano, not having it, punched McCann in the face mask. That didn't sit well with Boyd, whose hockey roots came out when he appeared to fling his glove to the ground as if readying himself for a brawl.
Asked about it on Tuesday, Boyd chuckled for a moment before turning serious.
"I don't know. A guy points a finger at you, you just get ready," he said. "I was just ready, I was ready for whatever."
Things didn't escalate much further, even as the two teams poured onto the field. Fulmer, who entered the fray from the dugout, explained his mindset in a chaotic situation.
"Honestly, it's find one of our guys and hold him back. You just go up and try to protect your teammates and hopefully no one gets hurt doing that, but there comes a point where you get kind of worried about your own guys," he said. "You just want to keep everybody safe, at least on your side."
So Fulmer isn't bounding over the dugout railing with a cocked right fist, looking for blood?
"No, I'm not," he laughed, "because knowing that I'll find a way to get hurt myself. I'll probably roll an ankle running out there."
"It's just one of those things where you gotta look and find your guys, especially ones that are kind of heated up, and just pull 'em back," Fulmer added. "You don't want anyone getting hurt or doing anything stupid that could ultimately hurt our team as far as pitching goes."
Though Boyd denied throwing at Sano on purpose, it certainly appeared to be an act of retribution on behalf of Jones.
"Regardless of what happens, we're just a close-knit team. When we all leave the bench, we leave it with (the mindset of), 'We're protecting the D, we're protecting this," said Boyd, smacking the Tigers logo on his chest. "That's just what it comes down to. We always got each other's backs, anywhere. The situation really doesn't matter."
As innocuous as baseball fights tend to be, Fulmer made one thing clear.
"You hate to see it happen, you really do. I don't want to encourage it, by any means, but we're just going to do what we have to to protect our teammates," he said.
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