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Wells hit with suspension

He gets 6 games for July 2 incident

The news was not surprising. David Wells was suspended six games and fined $2,500 for what Major League Baseball called ''his inappropriate conduct, including making contact with umpires Chris Guccione and Angel Hernandez during the Sox-Blue Jays game July 2 at Fenway Park.

But the timing of the announcement was somewhat perplexing to Terry Francona. The Sox manager received a call from Major League Baseball yesterday afternoon, a matter of hours before Wells was scheduled to start against the Yankees.

''I don't think I've seen that happen before," Francona said.

Francona left a message on Wells's cell phone upon hearing the news, but the veteran lefthander didn't immediately check his messages. So, with the media perched outside his office at 4:30 yesterday, Francona walked over to Wells -- who was wearing his headphones and was absorbed in his pregame heavy metal routine -- to pass along the news.

''From the letter that I received about the bumping and the spitting, we're going to have to go back and look at the tape because I don't feel I did anything wrong," Wells said after picking up the win in Boston's 17-1 blowout.

Wells immediately appealed the decision, allowing him to pitch last night. Unless he wins the appeal, he figures to miss one start in the coming weeks.

''I know they felt like they wanted him to miss a start," Francona said. ''I think a lot of the penalties have been stiffer this year."

Wells was ejected by Guccione after calling home plate umpire Larry Poncino a choice word following a pitch to Shea Hillenbrand that Poncino called a ball. Once ejected, Wells stormed toward second base umpire Guccione and argued furiously. It wasn't evident on replays that Wells bumped either umpire, which MLB's release stated to be the case.

The umpiring crew, through a spokesman, declined comment that night to a Globe reporter. But Poncino, the crew chief, told the Providence Journal, ''David basically ran himself from the game. I went out and I told him to get on the mound and pitch. I was giving him a chance to stay in the game. He didn't want to talk to me. Then he clearly swore at me. My partner clearly saw and heard what he said, and he was ejected for his illicit comments."

Decision time
As expected, Matt Mantei has opted for season-ending ligament surgery on his mangled left ankle. Dr. George Theodore, who operated on Curt Schilling in November, will perform the procedure July 25 at Massachusetts General Hospital. Mantei made his decision Thursday after he struggled to throw wearing an ankle brace.

''I don't have a choice," said Mantei, who was also weighing a cortisone shot (shelf time: 3-4 weeks) and arthroscopic surgery (6-8 weeks). ''My ligament is torn. It's not a minor thing. It's four to five months of rehab. They go in and rebuild the ligament, take the scar tissue out, sew me back up."

Mantei expects to be in a cast for four weeks, then a boot for eight additional weeks.

''Pretty much another wasted season for me," said the righthander, who has previously undergone elbow and shoulder surgeries. ''Five months is January. I want to be ready for spring training."

''The only other option was the cortisone shot. It would make me feel better for two, three weeks, then I would be back where I am now and get more cortisone. I didn't want to put Tito or Theo [Epstein] in a position to be worried about when, or if, I'm going to get hurt again."

Mantei, who signed a one-year, $750,000 contract plus incentives, does not believe he's thrown his last pitch in a Red Sox uniform.

''[Epstein] told me specifically when this happened, 'We want you back next year, no matter what you do [surgery-wise],' " said Mantei, who turned 32 earlier this month.

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Welcome back, Kapler
The Red Sox signed outfielder Gabe Kapler after last night's game and placed him on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain. Kapler, 29, starting his second tour of duty with the Sox, hit .272 with 14 doubles, 6 home runs, and 33 RBIs in 290 at-bats last season. In the offseason, Kapler left the Sox for the greener pastures of Japan ($2 million, plus a $700,000 signing bonus) but he hit just .153 with the Yomiuri Giants, who placed him on the inactive list more than a month ago. He'll begin playing his way back to the big leagues with a conditioning stint in Fort Myers, Fla. . . . Jay Payton, in his initial meeting with Bay Area reporters Wednesday, insinuated that his confrontation with Francona in the dugout July 6 in Texas was a staged move designed to expedite a trade. ''In my mind, there was a window for me to accelerate the process," Payton told the Oakland Tribune. ''I was obviously upset. But there wasn't anger. I think Terry is a great man and a great manager. Same with the organization. It was an opportunity to say something because they were saying there wasn't too much in the works as far as a trade. It wasn't that big a deal. I had my say. I asked to be out of there. They met my wishes." . . . Francona said Keith Foulke has begun rehabilitation work at the Athletes' Performance Institute in Tempe, Ariz. He's due in town soon, possibly tomorrow, for a doctor's appointment, Francona said. Foulke isn't expected to begin a rehab assignment until mid-to-late August . . . Manny Ramirez recorded his major-league leading 11th outfield assist of the season Thursday when Robinson Cano tried to stretch a gift double. Ramirez flipped the ball to third base and turned, pointing to Johnny Damon to signal the second out before the out had even been recorded. ''When that happened," Francona said, ''I walked down to [Adam] Stern, and I said, 'Young man, you keep your [expletive] eyes open, you'll learn how to play this game.' " Francona stopped to bob his head. ''I said, 'I'm kidding!' " . . . Mark Bellhorn's two strikeouts Thursday night, which earned him more booing and a seat in the eighth inning when Francona pinch hit with John Olerud, underscored just how much Bellhorn is slumping. The Sox second baseman went into last night batting .187 since June 1, with more strikeouts (49) than hits (23) and walks (21) combined. After adding two more whiffs in going 0 for 3 last night, he is hitting .105 (4 for 38) in July. Bellhorn went into last night batting .260 with 4 home runs and 14 RBIs in 44 road games, vs. .171 with 2 HRs and 13 RBIs in 38 home games.

It's a first
Stern picked up the first hit of his major league career in the eighth inning. Stern, who entered as a defensive replacement in center field in the seventh, fell behind Scott Proctor, 0 and 2, fouled two pitches off to the left, then singled through the hole between short and third. Hideki Matsui fielded the ball and threw it to Derek Jeter, who wittingly waved off Proctor's request for the ball. Jeter tossed it to Sox first base coach Lynn Jones. ''That's pretty cool," said Stern, 25. ''It's great for someone like that to recognize that." . . . Bill Mueller came up grimacing after attempting to field Gary Sheffield's sixth-inning double just inside the third-base line. ''He strained his back a little bit," Francona said. ''We'll certainly check on it [today]. I think he thinks he's going to be fine to play." . . . The Yankees have hired former Sox manager and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan as an advance scout. Kerrigan is expected to analyze video of other teams but is not expected to occupy a uniformed position with the club . . . Wells, who swore multiple times in his postgame session the night he was ejected against Toronto, turned to Sox PR man Glenn Geffner before he spoke last night and asked, ''We going live with this conference?" He proceeded to keep it clean . . . Nixon's inside-the-park home run was the 127th in Red Sox history and 47th at Fenway

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