David Ortiz backs Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez received overwhelming support from his manager and teammates when Ryan Dempster plunked the embattled New York Yankees slugger on Sunday night.

Three days later, David Ortiz also stuck up for Rodriguez, telling USA TODAY Sports that he disapproved of Dempster throwing at Rodriguez.

"I didn't like it. I don't think it was the right thing to do," Ortiz told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. "But we don't all think alike, and the guy who did it -- Dempster -- is a great guy."

Rodriguez has come under intense scrutiny for his involvement in the Biogenesis case and his appeal of a 211-game suspension from Major League Baseball.

Several players, including some of Ortiz's Boston Red Sox teammates, have publicly criticized the rules for allowing Rodriguez to play during the lengthy appeal process. The issue was magnified Sunday when Dempster threw one pitch behind Rodriguez's knees and two more inside before drilling the third baseman in the elbow with a 3-0 pitch, drawing raucous cheers from the crowd at Fenway Park.

Dempster's actions have widely been interpreted as retaliation for Rodriguez's ongoing involvement in baseball's steroids controversy, although the right-hander has denied intentionally throwing at the three-time MVP.

Regardless of Dempster's intentions, Ortiz disagreed with plunking Rodriguez, who homered later in Sunday night's showdown and helped the surging Yankees rally from an early deficit for a 9-6 victory.

"It's not that I didn't think it was right because Alex and I are friends, because once you cross the white lines, everyone's on their own," Ortiz told USA TODAY Sports. "But we've got Tampa right on our heels, and that pitch woke up a monster in the Yankees' team at that moment.

"You saw how the game ended up. CC Sabathia was throwing 91 (mph) and started throwing 96. Alex later hit one way out there. You're talking about a good team that you can't wake up. But we learn from our mistakes."

Dempster received a five-game suspension and undisclosed fine from MLB on Tuesday. He did not appeal the penalty and began serving the suspension Tuesday night.

The first-place Red Sox entered Thursday with a one-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East standings. The Yankees, who have won nine of their last 11 contests, are 6½ games behind the Red Sox and face a four-game deficit for the AL's second wild card.

After Rodriguez was hit on Sunday night, Yankees manager Joe Girardi sprinted onto the field, screaming at home-plate umpire Brian O'Nora for not ejecting Dempster. Girardi was tossed as the benches and bullpens emptied. Girardi said it was the most upset he's been on a baseball field.

"One of the reasons I was so upset is ... I mean, that baseball is a weapon," he said. "It's not a tennis ball or it's not an IncrediBall that's soft. It's a weapon, and it can do a lot of damage to someone's life."

Girardi's support of Rodriguez is in stark contrast to the relationship between Rodriguez and the Yankees' front office and ownership. Rodriguez's legal team has accused the Yankees of, among other things, misdiagnosing Rodriguez's hip injury during last year's playoffs. The Yankees have denied the allegations.

Girardi, however, said he supports Rodriguez because it is his job as manager. He added that he has not been given any specific directive from the front office on how to treat Rodriguez.

Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley and The Associated Press was used in this report.