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“I wanted to elevate a fastball but it just kind of ran in on him. Obviously no intent,” Niese said. “I felt horrible. This game can be pretty dangerous.”

Especially when pitchers are trying to use the inside part of the plate. Many hitters crowd the plate, daring pitchers to throw the ball inside and risk putting them on base with an errant pitch. Many of the best pitchers refuse to back down, no matter the potential consequences.

“I’m not going to let some guy beat me because I’m scared to throw inside,” Blue Jays All-Star closer Brett Cecil said.

Niese won’t face a fine or a suspension for hitting Heyward. It was an accident, just like the knuckler from Toronto’s R.A. Dickey that landed Nix on the disabled list as the Yankees try to chase down a playoff spot.

The way Girardi sees it, there’s a difference between accidentally hitting a batter while trying to establish command of the inside part of the plate and throwing at someone on purpose three times before plunking him on the elbow. The way he sees it, it’s too easy for something to go wrong.

That’s why Girardi ranted to the point of ejection against the Red Sox last weekend. That’s why he lobbied so hard for Dempster’s suspension.

“You know, there’s a way to police the game the right way, but injuries happen when players get hit,” he said. “And you think about Nixy getting hit, I mean, the last thing you’re probably thinking is you’re going to have your hand broken by a knuckleball, but it hit just right. And I know that’s part of the game, but you worry about players.”


AP Sports Writers Mike Fitzpatrick in New York, Steven Wine in Miami, Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Mo., and AP freelance writers Dave Hogg in Detroit and Aaron Bracy in Philadelphia contributed to this story.