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Monday, June 5
Rocker confronts SI reporter

ATLANTA -- John Rocker kept his mouth shut most of the season. Then, in a chance encounter beneath the stands at Turner Field, the embattled Braves reliever saw the reporter who wrote the story about Rocker's views on gays, minorities and immigrants.

John Rocker

Just like that, Rocker snapped.

Now, he could find himself in trouble again.

Rocker had a heated confrontation Sunday with Sports Illustrated reporter Jeff Pearlman, who said the pitcher threatened him and tried to get him banned from the Atlanta clubhouse. The Braves were investigating and Rocker's teammates were clearly disturbed by the latest outburst. A spokesman for Major League Baseball, which suspended Rocker for his original remarks, said no action was expected against the pitcher Monday.

"You've got one guy being a cancer time and time again," said outfielder Brian Jordan, who has been one of Rocker's most vocal critics. "Eventually, it's going to have an effect on the team."

Pearlman, in Atlanta to do a story on the Braves taking on the New York Yankees in a rematch of last year's World Series, met up with Rocker in a service tunnel near the clubhouse about two hours before the final game of the series.

According to Pearlman, Rocker made threatening comments such as, "This isn't over between us," and, "Do you know what I can do to you?"

The confrontation lasted about two minutes and became so heated that Rocker flipped around the bill of his cap so he could get face-to-face with the reporter.

"I was scared," Pearlman said. "But he didn't do anything."

General manager John Schuerholz declined to discuss the incident, but issued a statement saying team officials "immediately began to address the matter internally and are continuing to do so."

"We respect the rights of Jeff, as a legitimate member of the media, to cover the Braves in general and this series against the New York Yankees in particular," the statement said. "We will do everything in our power to insure that similar incidents do not occur in the future."

Apparently, no other Braves players saw the confrontation.

"I've heard him say time and time again that he feels like he was misrepresented in that article," Chipper Jones said. "Obviously, he still has issues with the guy who wrote the article.

"Sure, the right thing to do would have been to walk away. But I haven't seen John back down from a conflict yet."

Rocker, who has struggled this season after 38 saves a year ago, pitched a scoreless ninth inning against the Yankees. The first two hitters singled and moved up a base when Rocker was called for a balk. But he escaped trouble by getting Chuck Knoblauch on a popup and Derek Jeter on a flyout.

The Yankees won 7-6.

When Rocker came back to the dugout, he received a hug from starting pitcher Terry Mulholland. But some players are getting tired of his antics.

"I'm amazed he hasn't handled himself the right way," Jordan said. "Geez, if you get nine lives, he's using them up pretty good."

Even Tom Glavine, one of the team's most personable players, got short with reporters who brought up Rocker.

"I'm not going to answer any more questions about him," Glavine said.

Rocker declined comment when making a brief stop at his locker after the game. He grabbed his clothes and muttered a sarcastic comment at reporters before heading back to the training room.

After Rocker's comments in a December issue of SI, the team called together about a half-dozen players to discuss what action should be taken with Rocker. The consensus was to give him another chance.

"Obviously, it hasn't worked," said Jordan, adding that he expects management to call another meeting soon to discuss Rocker's conduct.

"He made his bed, now he's got to sleep in it. If he feels this is the best way to handle it, he's going to get burned. You have to grow up sooner or later. He's not only hurting the team, he's hurting himself."

Pearlman said it was the first time he has spoken with Rocker since the December article, in which the pitcher said he would never play for a New York team because he didn't want to ride a subway train "next to some queer with AIDS."

He also said, "I'm not a very big fan of foreigners. ... How the hell did they get in this country?" In addition, Rocker called a black teammate a "fat monkey."

Commissioner Bud Selig suspended Rocker for the first month of the regular season and fined him $20,000, but an arbitrator reduced the suspension to two weeks and the fine to $500. The pitcher also was ordered to undergo sensitivity training.

Rocker has 10 saves since rejoining the team May 18 but also has struggled with his control, issuing 25 walks in 18 1/3 innings. His ERA is 3.85.

"I think his anger is misdirected," Pearlman said. "I really do feel bad for the guy. I feel bad for his family. It was not my intent to do that kind of story."


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