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Youkilis takes his medicine

He doesn’t appeal five-game suspension

By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / August 13, 2009

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Accepting the judgment but showing no regret for his actions, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis last night began serving the five-game suspension Major League Baseball handed down as punishment for him charging the mound and tackling Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello Tuesday.

Youkilis, who had never before attacked a pitcher despite numerous prior plunkings, originally appeared on the lineup card yesterday afternoon, batting cleanup and playing first.

The Red Sox briefly thought about appealing, but after consideration by Youkilis, manager Terry Francona, general manager Theo Epstein, and Youkilis’s agent, Joe Bick, the Sox wanted to end the suspension as soon as they could.

“We decided to just take our medicine and move on,’’ Francona said. “We seem to be healthy right now. There’s always the idea that you could get it reduced. There’s also the idea that it could come at a worse time. So, take our medicine, do the best we can, and move on.’’

Youkilis agreed with the decision not to appeal and did not argue the league’s suspension, either.

“You just got to do what you’ve got to do,’’ he said. “I don’t really have an opinion on it. It is what it is. You just got to move forward. Hopefully, the next four days will be quick.

“I don’t have any regrets over it. The kids I work with in my charity and stuff like that, just telling them that’s not the right thing to do. But there comes a point in your life where it takes so much, and if people don’t do things in the right manner, then you get kind of fed up with it. You have to do what you have to do in life to protect yourself. I take one ball off the eye or anything like that, my career could be over. And I take a lot of pride in this career.’’

Porcello also was suspended for five games and Tigers pitcher Edwin Jackson was fined. Jackson, while pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays last season, was suspended five games for his role in a brawl between the Sox and the Rays. He was the most demonstrative player in Tuesday’s fracas other than Youkilis or Porcello.

Youkilis has become a common target for opposing pitchers. He’s been hit 10 times this season, tied for fourth in the American League. Youkilis deflected the notion that he’s been hit more because he has become one of the sport’s best hitters, and he also chafed at the idea that he invites getting hit with his batting style.

“I disagree with the whole, I’m over the plate all the time and this and that,’’ Youkilis said. “Because when you’re taking first pitch and you’re just standing there, you’re not leaning into a pitch. When you’re diving sometimes you get that. But if you’re not diving . . . Guys like to pitch inside and you’re going to get hit. To me, it’s all about the timing and the intent.’’

Youkilis’s suspension will mean more playing time for Casey Kotchman, the first baseman the Red Sox acquired when they traded Adam LaRoche to the Atlanta Braves.

Since arriving with the Sox Aug. 1, Kotchman was 3 for 12 with a home run and two RBIs entering last night. Francona hoped to find more at-bats for Kotchman, and the suspension provides him an opportunity.

“Things usually happen,’’ Francona said. “When you think you have too many players, things have a way of working out. You’re glad you have them.’’

Red Sox tensions simmered over beanballs last weekend in New York, which provided a backdrop for the Tigers series. On Monday night, after Brad Penny drilled Miguel Cabrera, Jackson plunked Youkilis. In the first inning Tuesday night, Junichi Tazawa hit Cabrera again with a pitch Cabrera moved into while starting a swing.

In the bottom of the first, Porcello threw hard and far inside to Victor Martinez, but Martinez dodged the pitch. The next inning, Porcello didn’t miss Youkilis. Youkilis charged at Porcello and threw his helmet at Porcello’s midsection before they twisted each other to the ground. Porcello insisted he had hit Youkilis unintentionally.

“That’s definitely a possibility,’’ Sox third baseman Mike Lowell said. “I think Porcello’s the only one that can honestly answer that question. Consecutive hitters - Victor Martinez way in then Youk square in the back.

“The evidence probably doesn’t look good for Porcello. But hey, man, if he says it, it’s fine. You’ve got to take the reaction with what comes with it. I have no idea if he did it on purpose or not. It just didn’t look that great.’’

The Tigers remained mostly mum about their half of the fight’s aftermath.

“I won’t talk about it,’’ manager Jim Leyland said. “Don’t even bother asking.’’

“I’ve never been involved in something like that,’’ Porcello said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t remember much about it. I had a lot of adrenaline running. And that’s all. I can’t really talk about it.’’

In his last 11 games, Youkilis batted .436 with three home runs and a 1.243 on-base plus slugging percentage. The Sox are just coming out of their worst offensive slump of the season, and they’ll lose their hottest hitter, their All-Star cleanup batter.

“I don’t know that there’s a good time to not have him,’’ Francona said.

Youkilis said he never foresaw the past few days unfolding as they did.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,’’ he said. “And hopefully I’ll never have to do anything like it again.’’

Globe correspondent Ben Collins contributed to this report; Adam Kilgore can be reached at akilgore@globe.com.

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