Piazza, Mota forced to sit for role in brawl

Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Mike Piazza might not be in the New York Mets' lineup on opening day. The crosstown rival Yankees aren't sure when Steve Karsay will pitch again.

Piazza and Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Guillermo Mota were suspended for five games apiece and fined Monday for their roles in a bench-clearing brawl last week during an exhibition game.

The suspensions will start on opening day unless they are appealed. Piazza was fined $3,000 and Mota $1,500, while Mets outfielder Jeromy Burnitz was fined $500 by baseball disciplinarian Bob Watson.

''Naturally I'm disappointed in the ruling,'' Piazza said in a statement. ''I have seven days to weigh my options. I plan to use that time to decide what course of action I will take.''

Karsay, the Yankees' top right-handed setup man, has a sore right shoulder and won't pitch until the pain subsides.

He looked tentative in walking one batter over a scoreless inning Sunday against Houston, his first outing since hurting the shoulder March 3 in his initial outing of the spring.

''This morning he felt something,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said Monday. ''He said warming up and in the game he didn't feel anything. But the fact he came in with a little cranky shoulder -- we just need to shut him down.''

Torre said trainer Gene Monahan recommended rest and treatment, but the manager didn't rule out any tests.

Karsay is coming off back surgery in November. If he is sidelined during the regular season it could really cost the Yankees, who lost relievers Ramiro Mendoza and Mike Stanton in the offseason.

A key holdover in a revamped bullpen, Karsay's job is often to pitch the eighth inning -- sometimes more -- and set up All-Star closer Mariano Rivera. It's an especially important role considering New York's aging rotation, which includes 40-year-old Roger Clemens, 39-year-old David Wells and 34-year-old Mike Mussina.

Karsay was second on the team to Stanton last year with 78 appearances. The right-hander even filled in as the primary closer while Rivera was injured and finished the season with 12 saves.

If Karsay is not ready by opening day, Juan Acevedo could take the right-handed setup spot, seeing time along with Antonio Osuna.

It seemed likely that Piazza would appeal his suspension, which would allow him to play pending a hearing.

Mota said he would talk with his agent, Adam Katz, about whether to appeal. The pitcher wouldn't say if he thought the suspension was fair.

''Like I said the other day, I have no control over that,'' he said.

In Monday's games:

Red Sox 9, Indians 4

At Fort Myers, Fla., Tim Wakefield gave up his first runs this spring, but the Boston knuckleballer pitched well again. He allowed two runs in five innings, striking out four. Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez homered on back-to-back pitches.

Expos 4, Dodgers 1

At Vero Beach, Fla., Los Angeles closer Eric Gagne, pitching in a game for the first time in two weeks, had his third injury of the spring when he was struck in the right calf with a line drive.

Gagne, who had an MRI exam for a sore groin muscle last month and another for a stiff lower back earlier this month, threw just five pitches before being hit with a ball off the bat of Scott Hodges. Gagne was diagnosed with a bruised calf and hopes to pitch again Thursday as originally scheduled.

Darren Dreifort allowed two earned runs and six hits in four innings, with six strikeouts and two walks.

Orioles 7, Mets 4, 8 innings, rain

At Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Rick Helling allowed one run in five innings and Baltimore hit three homers off New York's beleaguered pitching staff. Jeff Conine, Jerry Hairston and Marty Cordova homered for the Orioles.

Tigers (ss) 4, Blue Jays 4, 10 innings

At Dunedin, Fla., Warren Morris hit a three-run double in a four-run ninth for Detroit. Former NBA player Mark Hendrickson, trying to win a job in Toronto's rotation, allowed six hits in four shutout innings.

The Blue Jays also agreed to five-year contracts with center fielder Vernon Wells and third baseman Eric Hinske, last season's AL Rookie of the Year.

Twins 5, Pirates 4

At Bradenton, Fla., Shane Andrews' two-run homer in the ninth, the first runs off Pirates reliever Duaner Sanchez this spring, rallied Minnesota.

Jeff D'Amico and Julian Tavarez, among four pitchers competing for the final spot in Pittsburgh's rotation, both threw well.

Kenny Lofton made his Pirates' debut in a minor league intrasquad game with a single, double and a walk in six plate appearances. Reggie Sanders hit two homers in the intrasquad game.

Yankees 10, Phillies 6, 7 1/2 innings, rain

At Clearwater, Fla., Rondell White hit a three-run homer and Marcus Thames, Raul Mondesi and John Flaherty also homered for New York. Winner Andy Pettitte allowed one run and four hits in four innings.

Jim Thome hit two solo homers and Bobby Abreu had a three-run shot for the Phillies. Loser Brett Myers allowed six runs and nine hits in 3 1-3 innings.

Braves 8, Cardinals (ss) 7

At Kissimmee, Fla., Mike Hampton had another shaky outing, but Julio Franco strengthened his bid to make Atlanta's opening-day roster by going 3-for-3.

Hampton, acquired in a three-way trade during the offseason, gave up four runs, three earned, on seven hits and four walks in five innings. His spring ERA is 7.07.

St. Louis starter Cal Eldred, trying to lock up a spot in the rotation, gave up six runs on nine hits in three innings.

Marlins (ss) 8, Reds (ss) 1

At Sarasota, Fla., Danny Graves had no problems with his right knee as he pitched five innings, taking the loss for Cincinnati.

Graves, being turned into a starter after spending his major league career as a closer, had to miss his previous scheduled start because of an inflamed tendon in his right knee. He gave up two runs and eight hits in five innings.

Marlins (ss) 9, Cardinals (ss) 3, 7 1/2 innings, rain

At Jupiter, Fla., Josh Beckett pitched five scoreless innings and Derrek Lee had a home run, triple and four RBIs for Florida. Ivan Rodriguez hit his second homer of the spring.

Woody Williams gave up seven runs -- six earned -- and eight hits in five innings.

After another successful batting practice session, Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen (offseason shoulder surgery) could make his spring training debut this week, putting him on track to be ready by opening day.

Rangers 8, Athletics 1, 6 innings, rain

At Phoenix, Ruben Sierra hit a three-run homer and Texas tagged Oakland starter Aaron Harang for eight runs in the third inning. Terrence Long homered on the first pitch from Chan Ho Park.

Brewers 2, Padres 1, 6 1/2 innings, rain

At Phoenix, Ben Sheets worked four scoreless innings for Milwaukee.

Rockies 5, Diamondbacks 3

At Tucson, Ariz., rookie right-hander Aaron Cook pitched five scoreless innings and Todd Helton doubled twice, scored twice and drove in a run for Colorado. Cook has not given up an earned run in 14 innings this spring.

White Sox 4, Angels 3

At Tucson, Ariz., pinch-hitter Brian Daubach hit a tiebreaking homer off Francisco Rodriguez in the seventh for Chicago.

Reds (ss) 9, Tigers (ss) 4

At Lakeland, Fla., Jose Guillen homered and drove in two runs as Cincinnati roughed up struggling Detroit knuckleballer Steve Sparks.

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