Six O's penalized for roles in brawl

W. Roberts suspended for seven games for part in scuffle with Red Sox

August 03, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

TORONTO - Six Orioles have been disciplined for their part in Sunday's brawl in Boston, with reliever Willis Roberts receiving the stiffest penalty among members of both clubs.

Bob Watson, the vice president in charge of discipline for Major League Baseball, suspended Roberts for seven games. Roberts appealed the suspension after contacting his agent, which made him available for last night's game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Melvin Mora is appealing a four-game suspension that resulted from landing a punch to the head of Boston's Jason Varitek. Gary Matthews, Rodrigo Lopez, David Segui and Jeff Conine were fined an undisclosed amount but won't miss any games.

Eight members of the Red Sox were either suspended or fined, with pitcher Derek Lowe receiving a five-game penalty that amounted to a slap on the wrist and drew criticism inside the Orioles' clubhouse. Lowe admitted to instigating the brawl by hitting Matthews leading off the fourth inning, and saying something to the Orioles' outfielder as he returned to first base after attempting to steal.

Lowe, who has 15 wins and leads the American League with a 2.13 ERA, appealed the suspension and made last night's start in Texas in Boston's 13-0 win. If he withdraws his appeal, he simply will be pushed back a day rather than miss a start.

Watson contacted Orioles manager Mike Hargrove for details on the brawl, but he didn't speak with Boston manager Grady Little.

"Lowe started this whole thing and admitted that he started it and gets five. That's not even a start. I don't understand that," said manager Mike Hargrove. "He gets one extra day's rest. This time of year, that could be a blessing."

Varitek (four games), infielder Rey Sanchez (three) and first base coach Tony Cloninger (two) also were suspended, with Sanchez's penalty not starting until Wednesday. Infielder Carlos Baerga, third baseman Shea Hillenbrand and pitchers Doug Mirabelli and Ugueth Urbina were fined.

"All I know is I got fined $500 for getting mauled by David Segui," Hillenbrand said. "He's a moose, too, but he's cool as heck. He's a good dude."

Tempers began to flare in the third inning when Orioles pitcher Scott Erickson hit Manny Ramirez during a 12-3 loss. Erickson later insisted that he wasn't aiming at Ramirez, who had been nailed twice in Tampa the previous week.

Lowe retaliated in the fourth, and he and Matthews exchanged words before both dugouts and bullpens emptied. Roberts gripped a baseball in his right hand and gestured at Baerga and Sanchez, who threw two punches. Roberts also made contact with umpires Laz Diaz and Larry Vanover.

"I'm very surprised," Roberts said. "I thought maybe three, four days, but seven is too long. I didn't start the fight. Somebody pushed me from behind and I wanted to protect myself."

Hargrove referred to the punishment as "excessive" and "very heavy-handed."

Segui and Conine were disciplined for leaving the dugout while on the disabled list, a violation of MLB rules. Television cameras caught Segui in the middle of one scrum, and he's prohibited from sitting on the bench for seven games. Conine is banished for five.

Watson suspended Cloninger, 61, for "aggressive actions" after he applied a head lock to Orioles catcher Brook Fordyce and bloodied his nose.

An MLB spokesman said no date has been set for the Roberts and Mora hearings. Teams often wait until their next visit to New York, but the Orioles don't return there until Sept. 10-12.

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