Major League Baseball has levied its penalty on Jose Urena Thursday evening, suspending the Marlins’ starting pitcher for six games and fining him an undisclosed amount a day after he drilled 20-year old Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna, Jr. on the left elbow.
Urena’s agent Paul Kinzer said the pitcher is expected to appeal the suspension, which would otherwise go into effect on Friday.
Urena nailed Acuna Jr. with the first pitch he threw in Wednesday night’s game at SunTrust Park, sparking both benches to clear twice and Urena to be ejected along with Atlanta manager Brian Snitker, who rushed to the field along with several Braves players and coaches after it happened.
Snitker was not suspended, but Braves first base coach Eric Young, Sr. was suspended for one game and fined an undisclosed amount for his actions during the confrontation in which he shoved Marlins’ third baseman Brian Anderson.
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Young was set to serve the suspension on Thursday night when the Braves played the Colorado Rockies in Atlanta.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly expressed his regret for what happened after the game, saying there was no intent from him or the organization to hit Acuna.
“Obviously, this is not something that we represent or believe in as an organization, or myself too,” Mattingly said. “I would never want that kid getting hit and cause that kind of problem.I understand, yeah. If we were on the other side, and our guy was hitting homers all over the place and that happens, you’re going to be fired up. So, you understand.”
The incident sparked passionate reactions from current and former players, coaches and fans throughout the baseball world a day later.
“I’ve had three hours to calm down and all of a sudden I’m not real good right now,” Snitker said after the game. “He’s my kid. I’m gonna protect him.”
Acuna had led off three consecutive games with a home run, had hit eight home runs in his past eight games and the previous day became the youngest player ever to homer in five consecutive games according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Acuna Jr. may get a chance to continue that streak soon despite the incident since per Major League rules his streak is still intact since his lone plate appearance resulted in a hit by pitch.
Acuna’s X-rays came back negative after the game and the Braves received more good news on Thursday morning as his CT scan also came back normal. Acuna is listed as day-to-day.
Urena became the fourth starting pitcher in the Live Ball era (1920) to be ejected after hitting the first batter they faced in a game joining Bob Shaw in 1965, Scott Elarton in 2001 and John Lackey in 2009.
Urena also became the sixth Marlins’ pitcher all-time to hit a batter on the game’s first pitch and the first since Ricky Nolasco hit Alfonso Soriano on Aug. 8, 2006.
Snitker was ejected first, and after a discussion by the umpires, they decided to also eject Urena.
After sitting near the third base line for several minutes while team trainers treated his elbow, Acuna Jr. got up and walked past the mound where Urena stood. He then took off his shin guard and flipped it in Urena’s direction.
Both sides then rushed back to the mound after everyone had begun walking back to their respective dugouts and bullpens.
Urena’s pitch (a 97.5 miles per hour fastball) was the hardest he’s thrown this season per Statcast.
But after the game, Urena denied it having been intentional.
“I think for me I feel pretty bad,” Urena said. “People get upset and things like that, but I got upset too because how am I going to wait five days to go out there and make one pitch and get kicked out of the game? That don’t make sense, right? Always I throw inside. That’s my way for to get outs. I go inside try to take advantage and try to move [the batter’s] feet and that’s the thing.”
Urena has hit 34 batters during his four years in the majors. He led all pitchers in 2017 with 14 HBP. This season, Urena has hit 11 batters and Acuna, Jr. became the second Braves’ batter he’s hit.
Catcher J.T. Realmuto also said there was no intent to hit Acuna Jr., but that they did plan to pitch him inside.
“Of course, you don’t want to ever see that happen, especially to a first-place team trying to make the playoffs and one of the hottest hitters in the league,” Realmuto said. “You never want to see anyone get hurt like that. Our intent was to pitch him inside. That’s Jose’s strength, and that’s his weakness right now. That’s really the only way to get him out. We were trying to go sinker in, and he lost it.
“You can understand the other team’s frustration, for sure. Obviously, you still have got to protect your guys and it got more heated than anybody wanted. You kind of understand where they’re coming from. It looks bad, and you never want to see a guy like that go down.
Young was not ejected after his run-in with Anderson, but multiple Marlins players said after the game that Young told first baseman Derek Dietrich to tell Anderson he was sorry for his actions.
“It’s understandable,” Anderson said. “In this game, people are very passionate about baseball as well they should be and something happens you kind of understand when tempers fly a little bit. When something like that happens, it’s baseball, for as long as this game’s been around. It’s probably going to continue to happen so we just have to try to deescalate the situation when something like that happens and do the right thing.”
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