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Thursday, July 29, 2004
Eight players disciplined for roles in melee

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and Boston catcher Jason Varitek were suspended for four games apiece and fined $2,000 on Thursday, and six other players were punished for their roles in a bench-clearing brawl last week between New York and the Red Sox.

Yankees pitcher Tanyon Sturtze and Red Sox outfielders Gabe Kapler and Trot Nixon were suspended for three games and fined $1,000 by Bob Watson, major league baseball's vice president of on-field operations.

New York outfielder Kenny Lofton, Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz were fined $500 each.

Rodriguez, the Yankees' All-Star third baseman, and Sturtze are appealing their suspensions. Varitek, Kapler and Nixon also plan to appeal, Red Sox spokesman Glenn Geffner said.

"I thought it was too much, four games," Rodriguez said before Thursday night's game against Baltimore. "I was surprised it was that harsh. I've seen some harsher actions over the last month and it's five games."

"I think my time is going to come in front of Bob Watson," he said. "Hopefully, it'll be one or two games."

The fight broke out in the top of the third inning of the AL East rivals' game at Fenway Park on Saturday after Bronson Arroyo hit Rodriguez with a pitch.

Rodriguez stared down Arroyo as he started walking toward first. Varitek, still wearing his catcher's mask, got between them as the AL MVP walked up the baseline.

After some jawing -- Rodriguez said his language was "strong and ugly" -- Varitek pushed A-Rod, and as they began wrestling, both teams' dugouts and bullpens emptied.

Rodriguez said he thought the person who throws the first blow should receive a more severe penalty.

"I was on my way to first base and I got punched in the mouth by a glove," he said.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman saw it the same way.

"I don't think we're sitting here today if Jason just walks up the line with Alex," he said. "I think A-Rod, four games, doesn't make sense."

"I thought we were a lot more peacemakers than the guys on the other side of the fence," he said.

Several scrums erupted, with Kapler battling Sturtze, soon joined by Nixon and Ortiz. Sturtze was bleeding from the left ear. Varitek and Rodriguez were ejected by plate umpire Bruce Froemming, as were Lofton and Kapler.

"I think three games is too much for me," Sturtze said. "I was just trying to get a guy off the pile and I ended up on an island over by the dugout."

The Yankees have built a healthy lead over Boston after both teams spent the winter boosting their rosters following New York's victory over the Red Sox in Game 7 of the AL championship series.

"It's no secret we don't like each other," Rodriguez said.

Said Yankees manager Joe Torre: "We're in the spotlight all the time. It can be positive and negative. They always try to make an example of you."

"Obviously, the teams that are involved are going to feel what came down isn't fair," he said.