ST. PETERSBURG — As much as the Rays hoped Jonny Gomes wouldn't be suspended for his actions in Wednesday's incidents with the Yankees, they accepted Friday's ruling that he got docked two regular-season games.
But they had a harder time understanding how the Yankees' Shelley Duncan, who started things with a spikes-high slide into second base, and Melky Cabrera, who punched Evan Longoria in the back of the head during the benches-clearing scrum, only got one more.
"That does not make any sense to me whatsoever," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "What Jon did was reaction to what they had done, and we did not start a thing. I've addressed that point already — they perpetrated the entire situation. And then to have the punishment doled out almost on a similar basis, to me is unjust. And it's not right."
The Rays said the disparity in intent should have made for a bigger difference in the punishments, because Gomes was defending teammate Akinori Iwamura when he came charging at Duncan, while the Yankees were instigating trouble.
"Those guys are trying to inflict injuries, those guys are trying to inflict pain, and I don't know how much room there is for that in this game," Gomes said. "Granted, there's the old 'we hit you, you hit us' type of deal, but it's different with spikes high and punches being thrown."
The Yankees, not surprisingly, also didn't seem to think much of the with-pay suspensions, which go into effect on opening day, but can be appealed (which seems likely for Gomes) and held in abeyance until a hearing.
Duncan said, "Initially, I feel it is pretty unfair," then he offered reporters in Sarasota what sounded like a heart-tugging soliloquy on his passion to play hard all the time, "scratching and clawing" to get to the majors and leaving his "heart and soul on the field every game."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi, fined along with coaches Kevin Long and Bobby Meacham, said: "It is what it is and you move on. … Obviously we're hurt missing two guys for three games."
Girardi continued to back his players, saying he finally looked at a video of Duncan's slide and, while allowing that his spikes were a bit high, didn't consider it malicious. "I don't believe Shelley was trying to hurt anyone."
And he said he didn't know anything until the 1 p.m. MLB announcement about Cabrera's actions, which were reported Friday by the Times. But the Rays had been upset for days and felt gratified that MLB officials looked at the video and saw it their way.
Although both managers say they want to move on from the two high-profile, emotionally charged incidents of the past week, there is the little matter of the schedule, with the teams meeting again this afternoon in Tampa.
The Rays are taking preventive action, switching Gomes to their split squad that is playing the Braves near Disney (along with Elliot Johnson, who started all this with his collision at home plate March 8), with Maddon (who, in turn, changed his plans because he felt he "needed" to be in Tampa) saying the "intensity of the situation" was "a little bit too hot, and I want it just to cool down."
But Girardi insisted Duncan will play at Legends Field rather than go to Lakeland with the Yankees' other squad, saying: "He's got to play against the Devil Rays one day."
That certainly creates the opportunity — though likely under heavy scrutiny and possibly another pregame warning from the umpires — for retaliation and potential closure today, but Maddon said that wouldn't be the case.
"Our plan is to go play baseball," he said. "I've spoken to our team about it; we're going to go out and play the game properly (today). … We're just about playing it hard. If something comes up and it's a hard play, it's going to be a hard play. But we're not going out there looking to hurt anybody."
One prominent Yankee agrees. "If something happens (today), it'd be stupid," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "It's got to the point where it has to end."
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