Sox can't afford more player suspensions

Updated: July 30, 2004, 9:11 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Boston Red Sox plan to be on their best behavior from now on.

After their bench-clearing brawl with the New York Yankees earned suspensions for Jason Varitek, Gabe Kapler and Trot Nixon, the Red Sox face the prospect of being without four regulars for a crucial part of the season, pending David Ortiz's appeal of an earlier five-game suspension.

Not exactly the position they want to be in while chasing the Yankees in the AL East.

"I think that guys are just concerned that we all stay on the field as much as possible," Kapler said before Friday night's game at Minnesota. "We can't have guys that are vital to this team (who) have an opportunity to go and win the World Series not on the field. We can't have that."

The Red Sox entered the game trailing the Yankees by 7 games.

"We have to come together as a unit and do everything in our power to not have another incident like this," Kapler said.

Varitek, Kapler and Nixon are appealing their suspensions. On Thursday, Varitek and Yankees star Alex Rodriguez each received a four-game suspension. Kapler, Nixon and Yankees pitcher Tanyon Sturtze were suspended for three games and fined $1,000.

Ortiz, along with New York outfielder Kenny Lofton and Boston pitcher Curt Schilling, also was fined $500 for his role in the fight at Fenway Park last Saturday.

Varitek and Kapler were in the lineup Friday night for the first game of a three-game series against the surging Twins, who lead the AL Central. Nixon, who's on the disabled list with a left thigh injury, didn't travel with the team to Minneapolis.

"I think the players are looking forward to telling their side of it," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "Other than that, I really don't have a lot to say because I don't think we're supposed to, contrary to everything we've seen on TV."

On Thursday, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said his players "were a lot more peacemakers than the guys on the other side of the fence."

The Red Sox wouldn't comment on Cashman's statement.

"That seems to be the thing that he wants to relate publicly," Varitek said. "I'm not fighting this publicly."

Ortiz said he still hasn't heard any word on his appeal -- he was suspended for throwing bats toward umpires two weeks ago.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press