ST. PETERSBURG -- Carsten Sabathia chose to back his teammates over the potential of padding his back pocket, potentially leaving $500,000 on the Tropicana Field mound when he was ejected two innings shy of a contractual bonus on Thursday afternoon.
Sabathia said that he was aware of the bonus, which he would have triggered by recording six more outs in the Yankees' 12-1 victory over the Rays. Answering an up-and-in fastball to Austin Romine took precedence.
"I don't really make decisions based on money, I guess," said Sabathia, who hit the Rays' Jesus Sucre with a pitch in the sixth inning. "I just felt like it was the right thing to do."
Sabathia signed a one-year, $10 million contract prior to this season that included incentive bonuses of $500,000 for 155, 165, 175 and 185 innings pitched. He completed Thursday's start with 153 innings.
"It doesn't matter what happens out there, you don't throw at no one's head," Giancarlo Stanton said. "He did what he felt was needed to do. Either way, I'm with C. Always."
The 38-year-old left-hander had been irked in the top of the sixth when Tampa Bay's Andrew Kittredge buzzed Romine, prompting warnings to both teams from home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza.
Sabathia, who had hit Jake Bauers in the fifth inning, was led back to the dugout by Yankees manager Aaron Boone after Romine was spilled by the Kittredge pitch.
"I was still fuming from the fact that Kittredge threw one over our catcher's head," Boone said. "That's where my frustration lies. I'm glad no one was hurt. … I think there was no question there was intent."
"I don't know if it was on purpose or what, but any time you throw at a guy, you don't want to aim near the head area," Aaron Judge said. "If you're going to hit a guy, get him in the ribs or the butt or something like that. When you aim near the head, that's a different ballgame. That gets people fired up."
Romine said that he exchanged words with his catching counterpart Sucre before resuming the at-bat.
"You can never prove intent," Romine said. "I think people have been trying to do that for a long time. Six shakes and a ball behind your head, I'll leave that up to you guys to figure it out."
With New York leading, 11-0, at the time, Sabathia wasted no time sending his message. His 55th and final pitch of the day was a 92.5-mph cutter that sent Sucre to first base, and Carapazza immediately tossed Sabathia and Boone. Sabathia stared and gestured toward the Rays' dugout before exiting.
"I don't even remember what I said," Sabathia said. "I was just yelling. You all saw what happened."
Beyond financial incentives, Sabathia also sacrificed one of his better outings in recent weeks. He completed his final start of the regular season with five-plus innings of scoreless, one-hit ball, though he also probably scored extra points in a room where he was already revered.
"He does stuff for his teammates," Judge said. "That's how he's been his whole career. He does stuff for his teammates, and he looks out for everybody. He's always going to look out for guys in this room, and that's what he did tonight."