SAN FRANCISCO -- Red Sox right-hander Ryan Dempster will not appeal his five-game suspension for hitting Alex Rodriguez with a pitch, saying it’s best for him and his teammates to put the highly publicized ordeal behind them.
Dempster was suspended on Tuesday and fined an undisclosed amount after plunking Rodriguez with a 3-0 pitch Sunday night. Earlier in the at-bat, Dempster threw two pitches inside to Rodriguez and one behind the New York Yankees third baseman.
The incident touched off a firestorm that still hasn’t died down. In addressing reporters before Tuesday’s game against the San Francisco Giants, Dempster continued to deny he intentionally hit Rodriguez, who has drawn disdain for the circumstances surrounding his 211-game suspension for violating baseball's drug and labor agreements. Rodriguez is allowed to play during his appeal of the suspension.
Dempster said he didn’t see the need to prolong the drama surrounding his suspension by appealing it. He will begin his punishment Tuesday night and the suspension will end with Saturday’s game. The Red Sox haven’t announced when Dempster will rejoin the rotation.
Because the Red Sox are off Thursday and Monday, the team has the option of juggling its rotation so that Dempster simply gets pushed back a few days. In essence, Dempster’s five-game punishment has very little effect on Boston’s pitching staff.
“If you suspend a position player three games, he misses three games,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters in New York. “You can suspend a pitcher five games, even six games, and they may not miss a start if the off days come into play. That's why I think the off days have to be taken into account when you make a suspension."
Girardi, who rushed the field and argued vehemently with plate umpire Brian O’Nora Sunday night and was outspoken after the game, was fined $5,000, according to The Associated Press, which reported Dempster’s fine at $2,500.
Dempster denied that he had any personal problems with Rodriguez. “I don’t really know Alex much,” he said.
Dempster also denied a report that he once was snubbed by Rodriguez at a social event and had held a grudge over that.
What about the widely held perception that Dempster put his own personal agenda in front of his team’s fortunes by hitting Rodriguez on Sunday?
“I always put my team first,” he said. “Everything I do, between starts, everything I do between the lines, even days I’m not pitching, when I’m here in the dugout, it’s always been about the team first. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, I thought I was throwing the ball really well until that sixth inning [Sunday]. I was giving us a chance to win and just didn’t complete my job.”
Rodriguez homered off Dempster two at-bats after being hit and sparked New York to a 9-6 victory.
Boston starting pitcher John Lackey, who publicly criticized the fact that Rodriguez is allowed to play while appealing his suspension, refused to comment Tuesday on Dempster’s punishment. But fellow starter Clay Buchholz weighed in.
“That’s baseball. The ball gets away and hits somebody. It just so happened that the one person [it hit] is under a lot of scrutiny right now,” Buchholz said.
He said he wasn’t expecting Dempster to get suspended.
“But it is what it is,” Buchholz said.
With Dempster unavailable until Sunday, Boston manager John Farrell said Lackey, Lester and Jake Peavy -- in that order -- will face the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-game series starting Friday. Dempster, 6-9 with a 4.77 ERA this season, will throw a simulated game Friday to stay sharp, and Farrell said the team is undecided when to reinsert him into the rotation.
The manager said he didn’t believe Dempster put himself ahead of the team with Sunday’s actions.
“As Ryan has established many times over, Ryan has got to establish [pitches] inside,” Farrell said. “Whether it was Rodriguez or whether it was [Eduardo] Nunez, [Chris] Stewart, all of those guys, including [Alfonso] Soriano, there’s got to be fastballs in.”
Asked if he understood why many would think he was trying to hit Rodriguez, Dempster said, “I thought the first [pitch] looked like maybe [there was intent], but after that I was just trying to throw the ball inside. I watch video. Rick Porcello threw about nine sinkers in a row, a couple of them that finished behind [Rodriguez’s] back foot, and he swung and missed a whole bunch of them.”