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 5½ 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