Sheffield given four-game suspension

Sheffield given four-game suspension

DETROIT -- Gary Sheffield's quest for 500 home runs will have to wait a while. The Tigers slugger received a four-game suspension from Major League Baseball on Monday for his role in Friday's benches-clearing fracas at Cleveland.

The Tigers announced the suspension Monday afternoon after receiving a call from Major League Baseball. Indians pitcher Fausto Carmona received a six-game suspension, while catcher Victor Martinez and infielder Asdrubal Cabrera each received three-game suspensions and an undisclosed fine.

Sheffield decided not to appeal. His discipline began Monday and will run through Thursday.

"Obviously, we aren't in the playoffs," Sheffield said, "so the better thing to do is just get it over now. That way, it won't go on into next year, and [I can] start over with a clean slate."

He is not wiping his personal slate, however, for the Indians players involved.

Tempers began flaring in Friday's seventh inning, starting when Carmona hit Sheffield with a fastball in the left elbow. It came two batters after Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run homer to pull Detroit in front, and Sheffield believed he was hit intentionally because of it. He walked to first base while still carrying his bat before handing it to the bat boy when he got there.

When Brandon Inge stepped to the plate, Carmona tried a pickoff throw to first base, to which Sheffield took exception. He waved and yelled for Carmona to throw to the plate. Carmona challenged him back, and Sheffield promptly charged the mound.

While Sheffield tried to throw the big-framed Carmona to the ground, Carmona punched Sheffield on the top of his head. Replays showed the Indians' Martinez and Cabrera trying to hit Sheffield.

Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco, also ejected from the game, received neither a fine nor a suspension. Umpires cited him for acting in an aggressive manner in their decision to throw him out of the game, but replays showed him trying to hold back Martinez when he began yelling at Sheffield from across the infield after tensions had eased.

Sheffield pulled no punches in his feelings about the incident and the players involved when he talked with reporters after that game.

"There's a point I get to where it's hard to come back from," Sheffield said Friday. "And when I get to that point, you're going to have to deal with me -- today, tomorrow, until the day I get you."

Of the players who punched him from behind, Sheffield said, "I saw the tape. I know who they are. And I guarantee you, they'll have to deal with me."

No further incidents happened over the weekend, though Sheffield and Martinez could be seen marking lines in the dirt around home plate when Sheffield stepped into the batters box Sunday.

On Monday, after learning of the penalties, Sheffield was still vowing some sort of payback.

"They're going to be penalized by me, too," he said Monday. "That's just the way it goes."

Asked why he has been so public about retribution, Sheffield said, "When I challenge a man, I challenge him to his face. I'm not going to surprise you with anything. You're going to know I'm coming. That way, you're ready. I want you ready, just like I'm going to be ready. That's what kind of man I am."

Any reaction from Major League Baseball on that matter will not concern him.

"I don't care about any league thing, what they do," he said. "I've got enough money to cover any fine they've got. Trust me."

In Monday's case, he wasn't worried about an appeal, or the suspension's effect on his quest for 500 homers. With Sheffield currently at 497 home runs for his career, he'll need three over the final three games to reach 500 this season.

The downside if he had appealed, of course, is that the suspension could've carried into next year, when the Tigers will be trying to open the season strong and erase the bitter taste of last year's 0-7 start. Moreover, Sheffield has expressed optimism about next season because of his health. With no major injuries, he said he has a chance to go to through his normal, intensive offseason workout routine for the first time in several years, and he's upbeat about how he could perform given that chance.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.