Red Sox, Yankees get time to chill

Rainout brings no relief to New York's Nelson

October 13, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - The rain that fell for most of yesterday and the early evening gave both teams a chance to cool off before resuming the American League Championship Series.

Jeff Nelson is caught in the eye of a different storm.

The New York Yankees reliever, already burdened by his poor pitching during the postseason, has become a central figure in this series for all the wrong reasons.

The waves of reporters who gathered at his locker last night at Fenway Park didn't want to discuss the Game 4 postponement, or how Jose Contreras has displaced him as the Yankees' primary right-handed set-up man.

At issue is Nelson's participation in a fight inside the Yankees' bullpen during the ninth inning of Game 3, and whether charges could be filed in the incident, though Boston police said they had no plans to make any arrests.

Nelson, a Catonsville native, hasn't been fined by Major League Baseball or interviewed by police, who are investigating the incident.

Outfielder Karim Garcia was fined for his actions on the field during the fourth inning, when he became involved in a heated exchange with Red Sox starter Pedro Martinez because of a pitch that hit him on the back, but he also hasn't heard from police after hopping the bullpen fence in the ninth to assist Nelson and the other relievers.

Paul Williams, a member of Boston's grounds crew, spent Saturday night at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center with spike marks on his back and arms. The Yankees claim that Williams kept waving a towel to incite the crowd and baited Nelson into a confrontation. The Red Sox ownership group has accused the Yankees of overreacting to a quick gesture by Williams that was directed at a fan.

"What we had understood from Paul Williams was that he double-fisted a reaction to a fan who was just on the other side of the bullpen," said Dr. Charles Steinberg, executive vice president/public affairs. "If that was in poor taste or improper baseball etiquette or decorum, that's certainly something someone could question. Whether it merited an attack that had him in the hospital is certainly another story in that order of magnitude."

Principal owner John Henry said he saw Williams' injuries in the first-aid room.

"Since there's a police investigation, I don't think I should comment," he said. "There were witnesses, including the Boston police force, throughout the game. So let's let the facts come out."

The Red Sox want an apology from the Yankees. Nelson has no intention of delivering one.

"They need to check into the situation before they start making accusations," he said.

"Everybody yesterday started making this to be like we attacked this guy and that was totally wrong. Who in their right mind's going to do that? I would never do that. Our team would never do that. The Red Sox need to know what's going on."

Nelson, who's got a 27.00 ERA in one-third of an inning in the postseason, said he requested that Williams leave the bullpen if he continued to cheer for the Red Sox, and Williams - a part-time special education teacher - responded by moving toward him in an aggressive manner.

"It's unfortunate it had to happen. There's more important things than this. If I would have thought that going up to ask this guy to go to the other side to root for his team would turn into that, I would have never done it," Nelson said.

"There's no place in baseball or any sport for a guy to be doing what he was doing in the bullpen. I didn't go off, I didn't cuss at him, I didn't do anything of that stuff. I asked him, `Would you mind going to the other side?' If that's what it turned out to be, then who's fault is that?"

Nelson returned to the Yankees in an August trade with the Seattle Mariners, allowing him to again experience postseason baseball. He's gotten much more than he expected.

"I've been in this league for 12 years," he said. "I'm not going to go up and attack anybody or provoke anybody. That's ridiculous. I don't get into the Boston-New York fan rivalry stuff. We've got a job to do on the field. They can do whatever they want in the stands."

The Yankees have been supportive of Nelson.

"They know what happened. They're the ones in the bullpen who saw it," he said. "I have no reason to lie. I'll take a polygraph. I know what I did. I know what happened there. You guys [reporters] have no idea. You guys print whatever and make everything look as bad as possible, especially the Boston people.

"You guys can protect him, do whatever. I know what happened and that's the bottom line."

Club president/CEO Larry Lucchino said the Red Sox won't press charges.

"The team is a non-participant in that process, as I understand it," he said. "The people have a right, or the police force, to proceed based on what the police officers observed and the police reports that were filed, and then Paul Williams himself has a right to make certain judgments to proceed or not proceed in terms of pressing charges, should he decide to do that."

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