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Thursday, September 20, 2007
Atlanta's Soriano gets 4-game suspension for hitting Florida's Uggla

Associated Press

ATLANTA -- The Braves' fading playoff hopes were dealt another blow when Major League Baseball handed closer Rafael Soriano a four-game suspension Thursday for hitting Florida's Dan Uggla with a pitch.

Soriano denied throwing at Uggla intentionally and planned to appeal. He will be allowed to keep pitching until a hearing is held before John McHale Jr., MLB's vice president for administration.

A possible date for the hearing is Monday -- the Braves' final off day of the regular season.

"I'm not going to change the way I pitch," Soriano said before the opener of a four-game series against Milwaukee. "I'm going to pitch inside. If I hit him, I hit him. If somebody's hanging over [the plate], I don't care. I try to make good pitches. That's it."

The right-hander plunked Uggla in the upper back with a fastball in the top of the ninth inning during Atlanta's 11-6 win over the Marlins on Monday night. Both teams were warned by umpires.

Uggla claimed the pitch was meant as payback for the three batters hit by Byung-Hyun Kim that night, or for the homer Uggla hit off Soriano in their previous meeting.

"It was definitely intentional," Uggla said after the game. "I was lucky it didn't hit me in the head."

That brought this response from Soriano: "I'm not one to be starting big fights. I'm not that kind of person. But if he wants that, I'm not scared of him."

Soriano was 3-3 with seven saves and a 3.18 ERA when the suspension was announced. He took over as the closer after Bob Wickman was cut last month.

Going into Thursday's game, Atlanta trailed the NL East-leading New York Mets by 5 games with 10 games remaining. The Braves were even further back in the wild-card race, dropping six behind San Diego after the Padres won their seventh in a row.

Manager Bobby Cox was caught off guard by the suspension, saying Soriano had no reason to throw at Uggla.

"There's no bad blood," Cox said. "I don't know where all this started."