ARLINGTON, Texas — OF/DH Jonny Gomes dropped his appeal and served the first game of his five-game suspension Saturday as the Rays began taking their punishment for last week's brawl, a process that will leave them short-handed with only three players on the bench for the next two weeks.
Gomes will return to active duty when the Rays return home Friday, which is when LF Carl Crawford is expected to begin serving his four-game suspension, missing a weekend series with the Marlins and the first game against the Cubs. When he returns, 2B Akinori Iwamura would miss the final two games against the Cubs and the first against Houston. MLB rules are that only one position player can be suspended at a time.
Gomes only figured to start one of the five games, Monday against Angels lefty Joe Saunders. The absences of everyday players Crawford and Iwamura will be more significant.
The impact on the Rays' pitching plans will not be as severe — assuming MLB doesn't disrupt their efforts to manage the suspensions. RHP James Shields will make his start as originally scheduled Tuesday in Anaheim then drop his appeal with the idea that he would immediately start serving his six-game suspension, returning June 19 (on eight days' rest). RHP Edwin Jackson would then start serving his five-game suspension.
With three upcoming off days (Thursday, June 16 and 23), the Rays, in theory, would only need to use long reliever Jason Hammel to fill in for one start, potentially June 21.
"We have a schedule … and it's planned out for the whole month if it goes the way we think it's going to go, but we don't know that to be true," manager Joe Maddon said. "We may have to make another adjustment."
As much as the Rays thought they were punished more severely than the Red Sox, they are focused now on moving forward.
"Major League Baseball has made their decision, and we have no choice but to respect it and move forward," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "I have no doubt that the 25 guys in the clubhouse will rally around one another as they have done all season."
Jonny on the spot: Gomes might be getting something of a reputation after being suspended twice for his actions in brawls.
"I just think it's such a big deal right now because it happened against the Yankees and against Boston, the two big media (markets)," Gomes said. "I definitely don't want that reputation of a fighter, but I want the reputation of being a good teammate. That's most of the feedback that I've been getting — that I might be a little bit of a loose cannon, but at the same time I'm doing it for the right reasons.
"I didn't do any of this because of stuff that happened to me, it's all for stuff that happened to my teammates. I lead the franchise in being hit by pitches (33 times), and I've never charged (the mound)."
Tim talks: The Rays have started "preliminary discussions" on a contract with top draft pick Tim Beckham.
"Per our policy, we will not provide a blow-by-blow account of the negotiations," Friedman said Saturday. "We are hopeful that we will be able to reach an agreement in the near future so Tim can start on his path to the major leagues."
Miscellany: DH Cliff Floyd and C Dioner Navarro will return to the lineup today. … B.J. Upton drew two walks, ranking second in the AL with 42, and had two hits, for a .300 average and .407 on-base percentage. … The Rays say TV ratings for FSN games are up 18 percent through the same point last season. Today's game was added to the Ch. 66 schedule. … Game-time temperature was 93 degrees.