TORONTO -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland's now-famous quote about "a price to pay" for Fernando Rodney's inside pitch on Miguel Cabrera on Saturday night in St. Petersburg turned out to be a prescient reaction. The price, however, will fall on Rick Porcello.
Porcello, who hit Ben Zobrist with a high fastball the next day, received a six-game suspension and an undisclosed fine from Major League Baseball. Joe Garagiola Jr., MLB's senior vice president of standards and operations, made the announcement Tuesday afternoon.
The six-game suspension is common for a starting pitcher in the rotation, usually ensuring that he misses a turn and requiring the team to find a replacement to fill his spot unless it has an off-day. Whether the Tigers actually end up having to do that, though, depends on the appeal Porcello filed -- not whether he gets his suspension reduced, but how long the appeals process lasts.
Porcello confirmed the appeal, but had no comment beyond that. Leyland also declined comment.
With the All-Star break less than two weeks away, the Tigers could set up their rotation for the second half so that Porcello misses enough games between starts to serve the suspension. Porcello is scheduled to start Friday in Cleveland, then make one more start next Wednesday against the White Sox.
The suspension is on hold until the appeal is heard and a ruling issued, so Porcello would either need the suspension reduced -- which would defeat the purpose of the suspension -- or would need the appeals process to last eight days for him to make two starts before the break. The Tigers don't have an off-day before the break, so they can't simply skip his spot.
If the Tigers end up needing a spot starter for Porcello, it could result in one more start for Jose Alvarez. The left-hander has been filling in for the injured Anibal Sanchez, but Leyland announced that Sanchez will return to his spot in the rotation on Saturday at Cleveland.
The problem with using Alvarez in Porcello's spot could be the timing of an appeal. The Tigers will need to make room on Saturday for Sanchez to return from the 15-day DL. If Detroit options Alvarez to Triple-A Toledo, he won't be eligible to return for 10 days. He could return before that to fill in for an injured player, but not a suspended one.
In short, it's a tricky situation for the club to face, all arising from a fastball up and in that drew an angry reaction from Cabrera and an angrier postgame reaction from Leyland.
Rodney's 98-mph fastball in the 10th inning tailed up and in on Cabrera. It didn't hit him, but it forced him to duck away. Cabrera struck out after that, then shouted at Rodney and the Tampa Bay dugout on his way off. Leyland, in turn, had an angry response after the game.
"That's not acceptable," Leyland told reporters. "You want to throw inside, I have no problem with that. But he's pitched long enough that they don't get away up there. That won't be tolerated.
"It was a great confrontation which Rodney won, and we're still friends, but what he did tonight wasn't acceptable. There's a price to pay for that. I feel the way I feel about it, but I'm not going to make a big deal about it. We lost the game, they earned it, but throwing up there is not acceptable. Somebody pays a price for it. That's just the way baseball is."
Porcello started the next day, retired the first two batters he faced, then threw a fastball up and in at Zobrist, who raised his shoulder in time to take the pitch off his right wrist. Home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza issued warnings to both teams, but didn't eject Porcello.
No ejection, though, is required for a suspension.
"I thought it was absolutely uncalled for and hopefully the league will take a look at that," Rays manager Joe Maddon said after the game. "That's totally premeditated. There's no question about that.
"We didn't hit anybody. I want that to be duly noted. When this is all processed, I would hope that people process it properly."
Porcello, not surprisingly, said the pitch "just got away from me."
Leyland, meanwhile, tried to backtrack from his initial reaction as early as Sunday morning.
"I don't think anybody accused anybody of doing anything on purpose," Leyland said before Sunday's game.
After Sunday's loss, Leyland said, "It's part of baseball. Guys get hit in baseball games. Big deal. It's nothing new. ... Nobody's trying to hit anybody."
The MLB release made no reference to Leyland's remarks, saying simply that Porcello was suspended for intentionally throwing at Zobrist.