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Beckett gets six games

Pitcher will appeal MLB suspension

Josh Beckett claims he didn't throw intentionally at Bobby Abreu's head Sunday. Josh Beckett claims he didn't throw intentionally at Bobby Abreu's head Sunday. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)
By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / April 15, 2009
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OAKLAND, Calif. - Red Sox ace Josh Beckett is appealing a six-game suspension Major League Baseball levied yesterday for his role in Sunday's bench-clearing incident with the Los Angeles Angels.

MLB also fined Beckett an undisclosed amount for what was deemed an intentional throw at Bobby Abreu's head and "aggressive actions" in the ensuing showdown, according to vice president of discipline Bob Watson.

The punishment stunned Beckett and the Red Sox, who believe the MLB office and the umpiring crew disagreed about the events, a difference manager Terry Francona called "disturbing."

"We were pretty shocked," Beckett said. "I think the appeal kind of speaks for everything that we feel."

In the first inning of a 5-4 Red Sox loss, Beckett was trying to hold Chone Figgins on second base with Abreu at bat. After a long pause by Beckett, Abreu was granted time out. But Beckett had already begun his delivery, and, he said, he did not want to stop for fear of injury.

Beckett let the ball fly, and it whizzed by Abreu's head - a location the pitcher insists was unintentional. That brought everyone onto the field from the dugouts and bullpens, including several incensed Angels.

"It's just, it's what we're taught to do," Beckett said. "We have to kind of protect ourselves in those situations, and stopping is not a good way to do that. You can end your career on one bad slip or something like that."

Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was suspended one game and fined. Manager Mike Scioscia, center fielder Torii Hunter, and reliever Justin Speier were fined. And those four were ejected, but Beckett was not.

"Did he throw it up and in? Yeah," umpire crew chief Joe West said Sunday. "Do we believe he threw it at Abreu? No. Would we have warned him had both benches not emptied? Probably not, but because both benches emptied, we did issue a warning.

"The Angels were the aggressors. That's why they were ejected."

West's view made Francona rest easy after the game. The prospect of a Beckett suspension did not occur to him until yesterday morning, when general manager Theo Epstein informed him of it over the phone. No MLB representative contacted Francona, he said.

"I would have liked to have talked to somebody," Francona said. "When Theo called me this morning, that's not what I was expecting the conversation to be about. It sounds like they overruled the umpires. That's disturbing."

While the Red Sox felt disappointment, in Seattle the Angels felt vindication.

"It makes us feel good that MLB supported our position, especially since we were somehow painted as the aggressors," Scioscia said. "Upon reflection, MLB understood that Beckett's actions led to the dugouts emptying."

On Sunday, Scioscia was upset not only with the pitch - which he thought was intentional - but also Beckett's reaction. After Abreu raised his arms and stared at Beckett, Beckett marched aggressively toward Abreu.

"That was about as flagrant as anything I have seen in this game, and it's unfortunate," Scioscia said Sunday. "Usually, the pitcher will show a little bit of remorse. We didn't see any of that from Beckett."

The Red Sox argued, why would he show remorse if he didn't feel he had done anything wrong?

"I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do," Beckett said. "Am I supposed to go give him a hug? I wasn't really in a hugging mood right then. I don't really know what they wanted me to do.

"I had two umpires tell me that I handled it great. One of them publicly said that. The other one told me twice, once when I was coming off the mound and once right afterwards."

Said Francona, "I don't think that Josh felt like he needed to apologize, because he didn't do anything on purpose. And in the middle of a start, I don't know that you're ever going to get Josh Beckett to say, 'I'm sorry.' He's competing. And then once it starts and people are screaming at Josh, what do you want him to do?"

"That ball could have ended up anywhere," said Beckett. "It's unfortunate where it ended up. That's the only reason I'm standing here dealing with all this stuff.

"We'll see where it goes from here. We don't agree. I respect the job everybody has to do. But we don't agree."

Adam Kilgore can be reached at akilgore@globe.com

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