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Tavarez hit with 10-day ban

Francona calls penalty 'pretty stiff'

Julian Tavarez was given a 10-day suspension for punching Joey Gathright.
Julian Tavarez was given a 10-day suspension for punching Joey Gathright. (AP Photo)

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Citing Julian Tavarez's ''violent and unsportsmanlike actions" in punching Tampa Bay's Joey Gathright Monday, Major League Baseball yesterday suspended the Red Sox reliever 10 days and fined him an undisclosed amount. Neither Gathright, nor any of the Devil Rays who came to his aid to take Tavarez down, were disciplined.

The suspension is at least the fifth of the volatile Tavarez's career, a fact that worked against him when the league made its decision to discipline him.

''That's a pretty stiff penalty," said Sox manager Terry Francona, who would not comment on how the suspension would affect the roster, or whether Tavarez would appeal, because he hadn't spoken to the pitcher about the matter.

While most suspensions are for a number of games, not a number of days, MLB opted for a suspension based upon days because, as a relief pitcher, his usage is unpredictable. If Tavarez does not appeal, his suspension would begin Monday, Opening Day, and cover eight games (the team has offdays Thursday and April 10).

He'd be eligible to pitch April 13.

Francona, as of yesterday, said, ''I don't know if anybody [with MLB] talked to us or Theo [Epstein], and I know they didn't have video [of the incident]. I'm not sure what they were going on."

Most likely, MLB went on a slide show of still photos that thoroughly documented the incident.

Francona, asked if he felt there should be a penalty for Gathright, said, ''I don't know. I really don't. I don't think it matters what I say. I don't think it has in the past. I don't think it will in the future."

Gathright, speaking yesterday to the St. Petersburg Times, said, ''I think it's fair. It's something he shouldn't have done, so I think it's fair."

The incident broke out in the eighth inning after Tavarez, covering home, tagged Gathright. Gathright, who said Tavarez was stepping on his forearm, attempted to push Tavarez's leg out of the way. With Gathright on one knee and pushing at his leg, Tavarez delivered a right hand to the Devil Ray outfielder's jaw.

That only lengthened Tavarez's major league rap sheet.

In 1996 with Cleveland, he threw a fastball behind Mike Matheny and in a brawl that followed, knocked over umpire Joe Brinkman, which resulted in a three-game suspension. In 1998 with the Giants, he argued with umpire Sam Holbrook, threw his glove, and was suspended three games. In March 2001 with the Cubs, he was suspended five games, fined $16,000, and forced to take sensitivity classes after kicking San Francisco's Russ Davis. A month later, he was fined and again ordered to take sensitivity classes for saying, about the fans, ''They are nothing but a bunch of [expletives] and [pejorative term for gays] here. That's what they are."

In June 2003 with the Pirates, the 32-year-old Dominican righthander left the dugout to throw punches in a brawl with the Devil Rays. In August 2004 with the Cardinals, he was suspended 10 games for illegally applying pine tar to his cap. In October 2004, in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against Houston, Tavarez broke two bones in his left hand punching a dugout phone. In the same game he threw a ball behind Jeff Bagwell's head, for which he was fined $15,000.

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