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Laying down the law
AL suspends Moehler 10 days for doctoring baseball
Posted: Monday May 03, 1999 05:49 PM
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Brian Moehler isn't even bothering to appeal his automatic 10-day suspension for scuffing baseballs.
The Detroit Tigers pitcher was notified of the penalty by AL president Gene Budig on Monday, two days after Moehler was ejected from a game against Tampa Bay by umpire Larry Barnett, who said the right-hander doctored baseballs with sandpaper.
"The reason why we didn't appeal was I wanted to get this behind us," Moehler said before the Tigers' game Monday night at Tampa Bay. "Whether we appeal or don't appeal, people have their own opinions. It comes down to me wanting to pitch and soon. I think that's the best thing to do and just move on."
Moehler, 27, said it wasn't sandpaper, merely dirt, but said he didn't protest his ejection during a 4-3 loss because it's not his nature to "argue until I'm blue in the face." True to his nature, he notified the players' association not to appeal Budig's decision.
"It is tough for me because I'm a competitor and I want to pitch," Moehler said. "I want to be out there pitching. The toughest part is, you don't feel like you're contributing to the team. I just have to keep my head up and go out there and get my work done."
Barnett, the plate umpire, said he found a small piece of sandpaper attached to the pitcher's left thumb after the Devil Rays complained he appeared to be scuffing the ball.
Moehler yielded three runs on four hits in the first two innings, then allowed just one hit during a four-inning stretch. Tampa Bay players said the velocity and movement of Moehler's pitches changed dramatically.
"I don't derive any satisfaction out of getting somebody thrown out of the game," Devil Rays manager Larry Rothschild said Sunday. "But I'm going to stand up for what these players need, and that's a level playing field."
Detroit manager Larry Parrish countered that scuffing is part of baseball, characterizing Tampa Bay's complaints -- as well as the decision to ask Barnett to check Moehler -- as "bootleg."
"There's not a pitching staff in baseball that doesn't have a guy who defaces the ball ... If the umpires want to check things like that, I think half to three-quarters of the league would be suspended, including some Tampa Bay Devil Rays," Parrish said.
Moehler is prepared for the attention he will likely receive from fans around the American League.
"Every city I go into this year, I'm going to hear something from somebody," Moehler said. "It's going to happen. I'm prepared for it. You have leather skin and you keep moving on."
Section 3.02 of the Official Baseball Rules calls for the 10-day suspension.
In 1987, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Kevin Gross was suspended for 10 days by NL president A. Bartlett Giamatti after Gross was caught with sandpaper in his glove. That same year, AL president Bobby Brown suspended Minnesota pitcher Joe Niekro for 10 days for carrying an emery board and sandpaper in his back pocket.
A 14-game winner in 1998, Moehler is 3-3 with a 4.23 ERA this season. The Devil Rays scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly, two batters after he was ejected Saturday night.
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