Cueto, Baker, La Russa hit with suspensions

Cueto, Baker, La Russa hit with suspensions

CINCINNATI -- Although Tuesday's benches-clearing scuffle between the Reds and Cardinals was started by Brandon Phillips and Yadier Molina, it was Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto and the two managers who were most severely punished.

On Thursday, Major League Baseball suspended Cueto for seven games. Also suspended were Reds manager Dusty Baker and Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa, who got two games each for their actions during the brouhaha at Great American Ball Park. All three were also fined an undisclosed amount of money.

"What can you do? When the judge rules, the judge rules," Baker said on Thursday.

Since both teams were off Thursday, the suspensions are all slated to begin with Friday's games. Cueto was scheduled to start on Sunday against the Marlins, and could have pitched had he decided to appeal. Instead, Homer Bailey will start the finale vs. Florida.

As managers, Baker and La Russa have no avenue for appeal with the league.

"That's not the most diplomatic system," Baker said. "All I know is I'm tired of getting suspended. I never got suspended my entire life until I became a manager."

Fined an undisclosed amount were Phillips and Reds reliever Russ Springer, who came on the field while on the disabled list. From the Cardinals, starting pitcher Chris Carpenter and Molina were also fined.

The catalyst for the bad blood between the two top teams in the National League Central playoff chase came before the first game of their pivotal series. Talking to a reporter, Phillips used a derogatory comment about the Cardinals and proclaimed his hatred for Cincinnati's division rival.

Before Phillips' first at-bat in the bottom of the first inning on Tuesday, he performed his usual custom of delivering a friendly tap to the catcher's shin guard. That catcher happened to be Molina, who kicked Phillips' bat away before the Reds second baseman tapped him a second time. Molina got in Phillips' face, which cleared the benches and bullpens.

Baker and La Russa had a heated exchange during the mass gathering at home plate. But just as tensions appeared to subside, Carpenter said something to Baker that reignited a melee that went to the backstop. It was there where Cueto could be seen delivering kicks with his spikes to Carpenter and at the head of Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue. St. Louis claimed that LaRue suffered a mild concussion as a result.

The fact that suspensions were not levied against Carpenter or Molina irritated Baker, who said he pleaded his case Thursday morning to MLB vice president of on-field operations Bob Watson and to MLB executive Frank Robinson. It was Watson who issued the discipline.

"There were things said that got escalated. A few statements caused the escalation," Baker said. "I don't know what the umpire's report says. Something must have been left out."

Those non-suspensions were added salt to the wounds for Baker, whose club was handed a resounding sweep by the Cardinals and knocked out of first place. St. Louis now holds a one-game advantage in the standings. The two teams have exchanged leads in the NL Central all summer.

Despite not liking the outcome of the discipline, Baker agreed that everything that went down between the two clubs this week was wrong -- from the beginning.

"What Brandon said shouldn't have been said," Baker said. "What happened in the game shouldn't have happened. It shouldn't have escalated to that point. You don't want it to happen again. It doesn't help baseball. It doesn't help the integrity of the game and it doesn't help anything."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.