Eight players disciplined for roles in melee

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.