WASHINGTON -- A.J. Cole has been suspended for five games and fined an undisclosed amount for intentionally throwing a pitch at the head of Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang on Sunday, Major League Baseball announced Tuesday.
Cole, who will appeal his suspension, was ejected in the third inning of Pittsburgh's 10-7 win Sunday at PNC Park, after throwing behind Kang's head in response to a fake tag by Kang while Bryce Harper was sliding into third base.
Harper injured his left thumb on the play, and Cole's actions caused both benches to clear, resulting in he and Pirates outfielder Sean Rodriguez being ejected.
Cole, however, maintained his innocence on the play, citing his struggling command on the day and making it sound as if it was just a coincidence that it was Kang in the box when the ball got away from him.
"The scouting report, you got to, up and in, around the hands that's where I was trying to go," Cole said after Sunday's game. "You got to get it in tight on him, you leave it out over the plate, he's going to hit it. He's got what, 20 home runs now? So you got to get it in there, you can't just leave it over the plate and that's where I was trying to go. And like I said before, I wasn't throwing the way I was the past couple games, the ball was getting away from me a little bit and that one got away."
Cole, the Nationals' 13th-ranked prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, has made seven starts in place of the injured Stephen Strasburg this season, posting a 5.09 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 14 walks in 35 1/3 innings.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.