PEORIA, Ariz. – So much for that 1-2 punch atop their rotation with which the Seattle Mariners planned to open their season.
Those plans were thrown a Cliff Lee curveball Wednesday, when Major League Baseball handed the Mariners left-hander a five-game suspension for throwing at Arizona Diamondbacks hitter Chris Snyder in a Cactus League game three days ago.
The suspension is somewhat unusual given that it arose from an exhibition game and that the batter in this case, Snyder, wasn’t even hit.
Lee plans to appeal the suspension and could be available for the second game of the regular season in Oakland if the process is delayed long enough or his penalty is reduced.
If not, the Mariners will have to do some rotation juggling with their No. 2 starter unavailable until April 10 in Texas.
“It is what it is,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “We’ll let the process play itself out and see where it takes us.
“We’d like to get a definitive answer on this sooner rather than later.”
Lee was not available for comment on the issue, telling a team spokesman he’d rather wait.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said he’d wanted to have the rotation set by March 30, but that might not be possible depending on how the appeal plays out.
Wakamatsu added that he could get Lee into some late exhibition games in Albuquerque, N.M., or San Francisco, to keep him fresh should he have to miss the first five games of the season.
The Lee suspension comes on the heels of another incident in which San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito plunked Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers with what many observers feel was an intentionally thrown “purpose pitch.” No suspension was given in that case.