Baseball notebook

Report gets slow response

Suspensions unlikely before season starts

Shelley Duncan's spikes-high slide into Akinori Iwamura triggered a fracas between the Yankees and Rays that stemmed from their game last Saturday. Shelley Duncan's spikes-high slide into Akinori Iwamura triggered a fracas between the Yankees and Rays that stemmed from their game last Saturday. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)
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Associated Press / March 13, 2008

Major League Baseball has taken no steps to discipline players mentioned in the Mitchell Report since the detailed account of drug use was released three months ago. That makes it increasingly unlikely players will be punished before Opening Day.

No players have been called in for investigatory interviews since Cleveland pitcher Paul Byrd spoke with baseball lawyers Dec. 17, several attorneys with knowledge of the disciplinary process said yesterday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The interviews are the first step in baseball's disciplinary process.

In addition, no hearing dates have been scheduled for the grievance filed by the players' union on behalf of Kansas City outfielder Jose Guillen, who was suspended for the first 15 days of the season by commissioner Bud Selig Dec. 6.

Selig could rescind the suspension, the lawyers said, or discipline could be put on hold pending a decision by arbitrator Shyam Das.

Baseball's drug agreement says players who file grievances following a first positive drug test receive automatic stays, but it doesn't address suspensions stemming from non-analytical positives.

The union has taken the position any discipline against Guillen should be stayed if the case hasn't been decided.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported in November that Guillen bought human growth hormone, two types of testosterone, and the steroids stanozolol and nandrolone between May 2002 and June 2005. Guillen has declined to address the allegations.

Former Senate majority leader George Mitchell recommended Selig not punish players implicated in his report "except in those cases where he determines that the conduct is so serious that discipline is necessary to maintain the integrity of the game."

When the Mitchell Report was released Dec. 13, baseball officials said players likely would not be disciplined for conduct before Sept. 30, 2002, when the management-union drug policy began.

Last weekend, Selig said his review process was ongoing.

"I haven't made any decisions on that yet," Selig said. "We are working to finish off all of Senator Mitchell's recommendations."

Yankees order takeout

So much for the notion that the Yankees and Rays could settle a gripe without fighting. Meeting only days after New York manager Joe Girardi complained about Tampa Bay's aggressive play after one of his players was injured in a home-plate collision, the Yankees brought some attitude of their own into a testy rematch in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Shelley Duncan's hard slide into second base with his spikes raised sparked a bench-clearing scrum that resulted in two players and two coaches being ejected during the second inning of Tampa Bay's 7-6 victory.

Duncan, who had hinted at the prospect of retaliating for the Rays' Elliot Johnson barreling over New York catcher Francisco Cervelli last Saturday, spiked second baseman Akinori Iwamura in the right thigh and was immediately tossed. Tampa Bay's Jonny Gomes was ejected, too, after racing in from right field and ramming into Duncan as other players poured onto the field.

"No question that was a blatant attempt to hurt Aki," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It was set up. It was planned. It was premeditated."

Yankees third base coach Bobby Meacham and hitting coach Kevin Long also were ejected by the umpires, who met with Girardi and Maddon before the game. New York lefthander Heath Phillips was ejected in the first after a pitch appeared to graze Evan Longoria's shirt. The Rays already had two runs and three hits in the inning.

Phillips started because lefthander Andy Pettitte was scratched because of irritation in his pitching elbow. Girardi said Pettitte will make his next scheduled start in five days. Jason Giambi also didn't play because of minor back stiffness is day to day.

The Yankees' day in St. Petersburg got off to a rough start as well. Special assistant to the general manager Stump Merrill was taken to a local hospital after being hit just above the lip by a thrown ball during batting practice. He was taken off the field on a stretcher.

Baldelli back to DL

Tampa Bay's Rocco Baldelli, who has played in just two games this spring, will begin the season on the disabled list because of a condition that the oft-injured outfielder says leaves him feeling extremely fatigued after short workouts. Baldelli will be sidelined indefinitely, but said he is not retiring. He has been sidelined since last May because of lingering hamstring problems, and has appeared in just 127 of 486 games the past three seasons because of an assortment of injuries . . . The Blue Jays learned that righthander Casey Janssen, one of their top relievers in 2007 who was auditioning for the fifth spot in the rotation, won't pitch this season because of a torn labrum in his shoulder . . . Astros righthander Felipe Paulino, who is competing for a spot in the rotation, will miss at least a month because of a pinched nerve in his upper right arm.

Mariners dump Ramirez

The Mariners released Horacio Ramirez, giving up on the underperforming lefthander they acquired from Atlanta 15 months ago. Ramirez, who allowed three runs in five innings this spring, appeared stunned by the move. Bumped from the rotation after the trade for Erik Bedard and the signing of free agent Carlos Silva, Ramirez was battling for a job as a long reliever . . . For the first time this spring, Tigers manager Jim Leyland played his expected starting lineup this season, resulting in an 11-4 rout of the Astros in Lakeland, Fla. Batting eighth, Ivan Rodriguez homered twice and Detroit scored nine runs in the first four innings, eight off Houston starter Woody Williams.

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