Nats suspend Papelbon 4 games for altercation

Reliever's season over as he drops appeal of 3-game MLB suspension

Nats suspend Papelbon 4 games for altercation

WASHINGTON -- Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon's season has come to an end. The team announced that Papelbon has been suspended for four games without pay after his confrontation with outfielder Bryce Harper in Sunday's 12-5 loss to the Phillies.

Harper has not been suspended, but he did not play in Monday's 5-1 win over the Reds because of Sunday's incident. Manager Matt Williams indicated that Harper was not injured.

"Being part of the incident, being part of what went on -- I don't want to stay out of the lineup. It's something that happened. It's part of the game," Harper said.

Harper, Papelbon go at it

Papelbon was upset by the team's decision, according to general manager Mike Rizzo. Papelbon and Rizzo are expected to meet right after the season comes to an end.

"We felt to discipline Papelbon the way we did -- and not Bryce -- would've been unfair," Rizzo said.

The Nationals also said that Papelbon has elected to drop his appeal of a suspension issued by Major League Baseball stemming from his actions in a game on Wednesday against Baltimore. Papelbon was sanctioned for three games for throwing at O's third baseman Manny Machado. Papelbon will begin serving his MLB suspension on Monday and his Nationals suspension on Thursday.

The second suspension, the one issued by the team, ends Papelbon's season.

"I was upset, I was appalled," Williams said. "The punishment we have announced today fits and reflects the feeling we have about the tolerance of issues such as this and the standard we hold to all of our players and our organization, too."

Rizzo had the same feeling as Williams.

"We hold our players to a high standard. I always brag about the fact that you don't see our players' names in the newspapers except for in your sports columns," Rizzo said. "Holding people to high standards is what we are all about. ... Makeup and character are a big portion of the evaluation process. We thought what happened in the dugout is unacceptable. We acted accordingly."

With the score tied at 4 and the Nationals batting in the eighth inning on Sunday, Papelbon and Harper engaged in a physical altercation in the dugout. After Harper popped up, Papelbon was seen saying to Harper, "You've got to run that ... ball out."

Harper and Papelbon then got into a verbal exchange in the dugout. After a few seconds, Papelbon grabbed Harper's neck. Coaches and teammates had to break up the altercation.

"If someone grabs your neck, your first reaction is to do what I did, I guess," Harper said. "Other than that, it happens in the game, it happens in life. There is nothing I can do about it now."

Williams on dugout altercation

Williams acknowledged that he didn't see the incident when it happened and he was at fault for not getting more information from his coaches and players. Williams was more focused on Yunel Escobar, who was in the batter's box when the incident occurred. Rizzo found it odd that Williams didn't get the information, but he seemed satisfied that Williams owned up to the mistake.

"They go their separate ways and we are in a middle of an inning. In that regard, I could have asked for more specifics," Williams said.

Had he known what occurred, Williams said he never would have had Papelbon pitch the ninth inning. Williams didn't see the incident until he saw a replay of it after the game.

Papelbon is under contract with the Nationals for next season, and it will be interesting to see whether he will be back or go on the trade block this offseason.

"He is under contract. We are going to evaluate every moving part after the season. We'll make all those decisions once the final out is made in 2015," Rizzo said.

Williams said Papelbon and the Nationals have to move forward.

"We have to come together as a team and move past that," Williams said. "Right now, we have seven [games] to play and another one today, and we'll do our best to move past this incident and go beyond that."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All theTime. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.