KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Major League Baseball suspended Kansas City Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera five games and fined him and pitcher Yordano Ventura on Tuesday after both targeted Oakland third baseman Brett Lawrie during a testy series over the weekend.
Herrera was tossed in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game after throwing behind Lawrie, the second time he had thrown inside to him. Ventura was ejected a day earlier when he hit Lawrie with a 99 mph fastball above the left elbow immediately following Josh Reddick’s home run.
Herrera is appealing the suspension, which was due to begin with Tuesday night’s game against Minnesota. He declined to comment on the situation until the appeal is heard.
“I think they’re fair. It could have obviously been a lot worse,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of the penalties. “We just put it behind us and move forward.”
Ventura, who accepted his fine, said he was just “trying to protect my teammates.”
“It’s not what I’m looking for. I’m not doing that on purpose,” he said, using second baseman Christian Colon as a translator. “I’m just trying to make sure I’m sticking up for my team.”
The two incidents came after Lawrie’s hard, late slide into Alcides Escobar covering second base Friday night left the Kansas City shortstop with a sprained left knee. Escobar and several of his teammates called it a “dirty slide” and unnecessary given the situation.
Lawrie said he texted an apology to a phone number for Escobar that he got from Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. Escobar denied receiving the text.
The incident on Friday night triggered both benches and bullpens to empty, though no punches were thrown. And it led to a tense series between teams that met in last year’s AL wild-card game, which the Royals won in come-from-behind fashion in 12 innings.
The benches cleared again Saturday after Ventura’s pitch, and for a third time Sunday, when the teams began playing a dangerous game of dodgeball involving 90-plus heat.
The Athletics’ Scott Kazmir started things off in the series finale by hitting Lorenzo Cain. Both teams were issued warnings by plate umpire Greg Gibson, and Yost emerged from the dugout to argue. He was immediately tossed along with pitching coach Dave Eiland.
Things settled down until the eighth, when Herrera threw inside to Lawrie. Moments later, he sent a 100 mph fastball behind Lawrie’s shoulders and was quickly ejected.
Bench coach Don Wakamatsu and Escobar, who had been in the dugout, also were tossed.
“I don’t mean to hurt anybody,” Herrera said after the game. “Just trying to throw inside, but a bad grip on that fastball. It started raining pretty good. And they just tossed me out.”
Herrera did point to his head as he left — what he called a “think about it” warning.
“That’s what got me hot. That’s what got me mad. You can’t throw at my head and then say, ‘Next time I face you, it’s in the head,’” Lawrie said. “He needs to pay for that.”
The Royals were already on edge when the series began after a number of their players had been hit by pitches earlier this season. Among them was outfielder Alex Rios, who landed on the disabled list with a broken finger after getting hit by Twins rookie J.R. Graham.
Kansas City players were hit 14 times in the team’s first 13 games.
“At first I thought it was more of a fluke. Now I’m starting to think the other way a little bit,” Yost said. “Hopefully it’ll slow down a little here.”