ST. PETERSBURG -- Coco Crisp returned to the Royals' lineup during Thursday's 3-2 Royals loss to the Rays, and he was greeted by a small chorus of boos from the Tropicana Field crowd.
Small wonder, because it was Crisp who ignited a brawl with the Tampa Bay Rays almost exactly a year earlier, on June 5, 2008, at Boston's Fenway Park. Crisp, then with the Red Sox, was hit by a pitch and charged the mound against right-hander James Shields. That ignited a memorable ruckus that resulted in suspensions for eight players.
And who was the pitcher on Thursday for the Rays? Yep, it was Shields, who got a measure of revenge by striking out Crisp in his first at-bat. Crisp batted again against Shields in the third inning, reaching base on a fielder's choice and scoring on Billy Butler's two-run double. The next two times they faced off, Crisp flied out.
This wasn't the first time the two combatants had faced since last June's incident. In Game 6 of last year's American League Championship Series, Crisp went 3-for-4 against Shields, who said they've long since resolved their differences.
Crisp missed the first two games of the series on bereavement leave because of the passing of his great-grandmother. To make roster room, the Royals optioned infielder Tug Hulett to Triple-A Omaha on Thursday.
Manager Trey Hillman ran a pregame check on Crisp, who missed four straight games before going on leave because of a sore right shoulder. Crisp looked OK in the batting cage.
Because of the shoulder problem, Hillman said his middle infielders would roam deeper into center field to help out Crisp as he throws the ball in.
Hulett, called up on May 23 after shortstop Mike Aviles went on the 15-day disabled list, appeared in five games for the Royals and was 0-for-4. He entered Wednesday night's 9-0 loss in the seventh inning and flied out and made an error at third base.
For Omaha, Hulett was batting .296 in 39 games with four homers and 32 RBIs.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.