The in-game fireworks broke out suddenly when Sheffield and Fausto Carmona went at each other in the seventh inning, causing both benches to clear. The closing fireworks from Sheffield came when the game was over, a burst of frustration that had been simmering for the final few innings after he was ejected.
"There's a point I get to where it's hard to come back from," Sheffield said. "And when I get to that point, you're going to have to deal with me -- today, tomorrow, until the day I get you."
He was talking about the Indians players who punched him in the back of the head while he and Carmona were wrestling. But he also sent a clear message to Carmona, whom he feels targeted him with a pitch. That started the tempers until they finally erupted a minute later, sending off an incident between two teams that really haven't had issues with each other over the last several years.
"It's just one of those unfortunate incidents," said hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, who managed the game while Jim Leyland began serving his three-game suspension.
It took more than 12 minutes for Friday's fracas to calm down. Sheffield might have been calm after the game, but he clearly wasn't in a mood to forget it.
Carmona gave up a go-ahead home run to Miguel Cabrera two batters before Sheffield came up in the seventh. Carmona's 0-1 fastball hit Sheffield in his left elbow. Sheffield paused for a moment at the blow, then walked slowly to first base while still holding his bat. The bat boy followed him down the first-base line and finally got the bat once Sheffield reached the base.
"I've tried to play the game the right way," Sheffield said, "and if I hit a home run against a guy, normally guys try to send a message to me. If someone else hits a home run off a guy, don't take it out on me."
Carmona declined to discuss the incident.
It was the second time this season that Carmona had hit Sheffield with a pitch, the other time coming at the tail end of back-to-back hit-by-pitches here April 17. Sheffield, however, was under the impression that Carmona had hit him another time.
Carmona gathered himself on the mound, then as play resumed, he quickly threw over to first baseman Michael Aubrey covering the bag. Sheffield waved at Carmona to throw to the plate, not at first base.
"The thing is, obviously when somebody hits you, the first reaction is somebody is going to try to steal [second base]," Sheffield said. "I'm not going anywhere. It was a short lead."
Carmona answered back, seemingly beckoning at Sheffield. That sent Sheffield sprinting to the mound as the benches and bullpens cleared.
"He called me out," Sheffield said. "If you call me out, I answer the call."
The speed with which he answered caught many off guard.
"Obviously he was pretty upset when he got hit," Aubrey said. "He just wanted to make his point known that he was upset. I thought he was just going to get to first and mouth off a little bit and let him know. ... Then he took off, totally surprised me."
From there, the situation quickly fell apart into a scrum, with Sheffield and Carmona wrestling in the middle while others tried to separate them. Carmona delivered a couple of punches to the top of Sheffield's head before Magglio Ordonez and others grabbed him. Asdrubal Cabrera charged in from behind and got in a shot on Sheffield's head with his glove, as did catcher Victor Martinez before Brandon Inge tackled him.
"I'm trying to throw him to the ground," Sheffield said of Carmona. "That way, I can see what's coming at me. But when I'm throwing him to the ground, I'm getting punched in the back of the head."
He eventually discovered who was punching him. After he was ejected, he went into the clubhouse and watched replays to find out.
"I saw the tape," he said. "I know who they are. And I guarantee you, they'll have to deal with me."
Those replays also showed Sheffield landing a punch on Carmona once they collided.
"I got the one hand I needed to get in," Sheffield said, "and I guarantee you he felt it."
The peacemakers eventually prevailed, having pulled the players apart. Martinez, by then on the third-base side of the mound, nearly restarted matters when he yelled across the infield at Sheffield, who at that point was being ushered back to the dugout by Detroit coaches Chuck Hernandez, Gene Lamont and Gene Roof.
"If he wants to do something, charge right there [after the hit-by-pitch]," Martinez said. "He didn't say anything. Just shut your mouth and keep playing the game."
Sheffield took particular issue with Martinez, especially once he started yelling.
"This guy, I don't know how many years he has, but his act is tired," Sheffield said, "all this macho [act], throwing the equipment off. ... One thing I don't like is when somebody's talking and making a big scene and backing up. If you're going to talk to me, be a man."
Once they were yelling at each other, others rushed Martinez to keep him from getting any closer. Placido Polanco was the first, eventually knocking Martinez before Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera blocked the catcher.
Someone on the umpiring crew reported seeing Polanco throw a punch, which earned him an ejection along with Sheffield, Martinez and Carmona. Polanco denied it.
"He was trying to come back and fight," Polanco said, "and I'm like, 'Come on, bro.' I don't know who made that decision. That's a [terrible] decision. ... This is what I'm thinking: They had to throw two guys out from each team, and I'm up."
What suspensions result from the incident will be seen in the coming days, likely sooner. The last time Sheffield was suspended came here last year, when umpire Greg Gibson accused Sheffield of throwing a bat in his direction after running out a ground ball to first, having questioned Gibson's strike zone. Sheffield vehemently denied it and appealed his suspension down from three games to two.
This time, all Sheffield was defending was the point he was trying to make.
"This is the third time [I've been hit]," Sheffield said. "Like I said, three strikes, you're out."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less