ATLANTA - Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli has been suspended for two games and fined an undisclosed amount for "inappropriate actions" during Sunday's 4-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Camden Yards that included his first ejection in two seasons with the club.
Major League Baseball officials determined that Mazzilli made contact with crew chief Charlie Reliford while arguing a call in the sixth inning. Mazzilli also is being punished for throwing a tray of bubble gum onto the field as he headed to the clubhouse.
Mazzilli's suspension will be held in abeyance until he has the chance to discuss the matter with John McHale, MLB's senior vice president of administration.
"I was taken aback, I think, but we're going to wait," Mazzilli said yesterday before batting practice. "I really can't comment on what's going to take place until we have the hearing and see where it goes. I'm not going to say it's severe or it's not severe. There's nothing really I can say."
Because there's no official appeals process or hearing for a manager, Mazzilli must speak to McHale by phone. A spokesman for baseball's media relations department said the conversation most likely would take place a few days after July 4.
Pat Courtney, vice president of public relations, said Mazzilli will be given the chance to present his side of the story.
Asked if the suspension could be reduced, Courtney said, "Is it under the realm of possibility? Yes. But I just don't know in this particular case. I don't know if that's really the purpose. But he has the opportunity to discuss the incident with Major League Baseball."
The Orioles want to review tape of the incident to see whether Mazzilli leaned into Reliford. The argument began when third base umpire Chris Guccione ruled that Chris Gomez's line drive hooked foul into the left-field seats.
Bench coach Sam Perlozzo would fill in as manager if Mazzilli's suspension is upheld.
"I'm absolutely not going to let it be a distraction," Mazzilli said. "How can you? We still have things at task, and we're going to go out and about the same way that we have."
J. Lopez back with club
Catcher Javy Lopez has rejoined the club in Atlanta and is doing hand-strengthening exercises in an attempt to accelerate his return to the lineup.
Lopez will be re-examined by Dr. Mark Deitch on Tuesday and perhaps given clearance to begin baseball-related activities by the end of the week. Deitch performed surgery on May 26 to repair a broken bone that occurred when Lopez was hit by a foul ball on May 24.
"It feels great," Lopez said. "I just have to wait until they give me the green light to start throwing and hitting. That's going to be a whole different experience. Right now, I'm able to flex my hand and do little things that I couldn't do before."
Lopez returned to Turner Field yesterday for the first time since signing with the Orioles as a free agent in December 2003. He spent 10 seasons with the Braves.
"I was looking forward to coming here and playing against them and experience playing where I used to call home and seeing how the fans reacted," he said. "But unfortunately, it's not going to happen."
Meanwhile, third baseman Melvin Mora took batting practice yesterday and continues to make significant progress from a strained right hamstring that caused him to miss the last two games in Toronto. He could be available this weekend. And Mazzilli is confident that B.J. Surhoff (strained ribcage muscle) will be ready when eligible to come off the disabled list July 5.
Chen returns to Atlanta
Lopez isn't the only Oriole enjoying a homecoming of sorts, though Bruce Chen has played for so many teams, he could get that feeling in just about any ballpark.
Chen was regarded as a top pitching prospect in the Braves' organization, going 8-2 over three seasons, before they traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies on July 12, 2000, beginning a journey that has put him in nine organizations. "I have a lot of special memories here," said Chen, who opposes Roman Colon today, "but I'm just going to treat it like any other start."
Chen was touted as the next Tom Glavine in Atlanta, a comparison that proved too burdensome for the left-hander.
"There was pressure," he said. "You hear how you're going to be the next big thing, and whenever you have two or three real bad outings, then you start thinking, `I'm not living up to my expectations.' That's part of being young and growing up and learning.
"I had to work on a lot of things. They had a lot of good pitchers. It's harder to teach a kid who's just coming up than talking to [Greg] Maddux and people like that. They already know what they have to do. At that time, I was figuring out things. They were talking about setting up hitters and I'm trying to throw strikes."