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MLB Suspends Tigers' Moehler

Detroit Tigers pitcher Brian Moehler was suspended today for 10 days for doctoring baseballs.

The suspension was announced by American League president Gene Budig. Moehler has the right to appeal, and the suspension will be held in abeyance should he do so.

Moehler was accused of doctoring the balls in Detroit's game Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was ejected by home plate umpire Larry Barnett.

"I was watching him," Barnett said, describing the Detroit pitcher's mannerisms just before discovering a small piece of sandpaper attached to the right-hander's left thumb.

"When I didn't see anything in his glove, (Moehler's gesture) made me suspicious," the umpire added, demonstrating how the Tigers pitcher held up four fingers but did not extend his thumb.

"When he did that, I said to myself: `He's got something on there.' As soon as I got (the thumb) and turned it over, it was right there. It was smaller than a dime. I just said: `Son, you're gone.' He didn't say nothing."

Section 3.02 of the Official Baseball Rules calls for a 10-day suspension. In 1987, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Kevin Gross was suspended for 10 days by NL president A. Bartlett Giamatti after Gross was caught with sandpaper in his glove. That same year, AL president Bobby Brown suspended Minnesota pitcher Joe Niekro for 10 days for carrying an emery board and sandpaper in his back pocket.

"That's one of those things as a manager that you don't have a whole lot of control over, like a team not hitting," Detroit's Larry Parrish said of possible league action.

Moehler, a 14-game winner in 1998 who's 3-3 with a 4.23 ERA this season, denied scuffing the ball or having sandpaper on his thumb when the Devil Rays asked Barnett to check the pitcher's glove and hands with one out in the seventh inning of a tie game.

He said he didn't protest the ejection because it's not his nature to argue and that Barnett was just doing his job. Parrish maintained he didn't argue, either, because it was time for a pitching change.

Moehler had allowed consecutive singles before Devil Rays Larry Rothschild asked the umpire to check the pitcher. Reliever Sean Runyan walked the next batter to load the bases, then gave up a sacrifice fly that gave Tampa Bay a 4-3 victory.

"There was nothing there. It was dirt," Moehler said. "I don't know if other guys do it or not, but I was rubbing the ball like I always do. Thesthree fingers get the dirtiest, but the ump said he saw something."

The Devil Rays became suspicious after Moehler, who allowed three runs in the first two innings, suddenly began getting sharper than usual movement on some of his pitches.

Rothschild waited until hos players collected five or six balls they felt had been scuffed by Moehler, then approached Barnett to tell the umpire what they suspected. "I didn't check for gamesmanship. I checked because there was something going on. I don't play that game," Rothschild said. "I did it because I knew that something was going on. I wouldn't do it to distract somebody or anything else."

While Parrish didn't protest the ejection, he did take issue with the Devil Rays going to the umpire.

"There's not a pitching staff in baseball that doesn't have a guy who defaces the ball ... If the umpires want to check things like that, I think half to three-quarters of the league would be suspended, including some Tampa Bay Devil Rays," Parrish said.

"I'm not saying that Mo does or does not. I'm just saying that in the major leagues, as long as I can remember, that's sort of been a part of baseball."

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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