NEW YORK — OF Jonny Gomes sat out Friday after his two-game suspension was cut in half through an unexpected and secretly negotiated deal between the players association and MLB.
And that was the simple part.
Once the deal was struck Friday afternoon — essentially a plea bargain in return for dropping a scheduled Monday appeal; the two suspended Yankees also had a game dropped — there was ample confusion and miscommunication over when Gomes would serve it.
First, at around 4:10 p.m., the Rays were told it would be Friday. Forty minutes later, they were told it was changed to Sunday. Then an hour later it was back to Friday. Making it more confusing, the info was coming in media advisories sent to Rays communications director Chris Costello rather than direct word from MLB to Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman.
"I was just none too pleased with the process and the communication," Friedman said. "It doesn't much matter to us when it is and whatever else, it was just the process seemed a bit confusing."
Gomes admitted that his representatives were the ones trying to change it to Sunday (since he was in the lineup Friday and will be today; and won't be Sunday based on the pitching matchup); MLB officials decided the deal was made for Friday and wasn't open to manipulation. Still, Gomes said the ruling was fair. "I just work here; they make the decisions," he said. "I'm fine with it. … I was sure it was going to be Sunday, but I have to serve it out today."
Yankees OF Melky Cabrera and 1B Shelley Duncan had their three-game suspensions from the March 12 fracas sliced to two each and were allowed to serve them consecutively — Cabrera sitting Friday and today; Duncan out Sunday and Monday.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, "Realistically, I don't think you could expect anything less than what they just got."
The Rays were pleased, too. "I'm just happy Jon's got reduced; I think that's appropriate," manager Joe Maddon said. "In regard to what happened with the Yankees, that's really not our business, so I'm not concerned with it."
Maddon had to shuffle his lineup, with Nathan Haynes taking Gomes' place in rightfield.
ACTION JACKSON: RHP Edwin Jackson, known for remarkable talent and inconsistency, makes his first start of a pivotal season today, as he is out of options and the Rays have talented starters coming.
"The biggest thing with him is we're just trying to get him to understand how to really focus each pitch," Maddon said. "…Just not to take a break once in a while and get out of rhythm and then not be able to get back in in a timely manner."
MEDICAL REPORT: Ace LHP Scott Kazmir is scheduled for his third and final bullpen session in St. Petersburg this morning, then he will advance to throwing batting practice with hopes of returning by late April from his left elbow strain.
MISCELLANY: Gov. Charlie Crist will join retired Bucs star Mike Alstott in throwing out a ceremonial first pitch at Tuesday's home opener. … The Rays had room to add C Mike Difelice to the 40-man roster because RHP Juan Salas, still delayed by visa issues, was placed on the restricted list. … The seven-run eighth matched the Rays' record for runs in an inning at Yankee Stadium, also done July 22, 2000. … Maddon gave Willy Aybar extra time to rest his sore left hamstring and put Eric Hinske at third (his first start there since July 22, 2006); Aybar is slated to be back today. … INF Elliot Johnson is to make his major-league debut today, at DH. Johnson went to the bullpen Friday after Dioner Navarro was hurt and is the emergency catcher. … Rob Thomson managed the Yankees; Joe Girardi had an upper respiratory infection.