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MLB suspends Pirates pitcher Sanchez 6 games

Pirates starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez throws during the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, April 26, 2013, in St. Louis. Sanchez was suspended six games after Major League Baseball ruled he intentionally hit Allen Craig.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013, 2:34 p.m.

ST. LOUIS — Jonathan Sanchez insists it was an accident when he hit Allen Craig of the St. Louis Cardinals with a pitch Friday night. Major League Baseball doesn't buy it and on Saturday suspended Sanchez for six games.

Sanchez also was fined an undisclosed amount. The suspension was supposed to begin Saturday, but Sanchez filed an appeal.

In the first inning, Sanchez gave up consecutive home runs and a single. He then hit Craig high on the shoulder and was immediately ejected. Umpire Tim Timmons ruled Sanchez intentionally threw at Craig.

Sanchez insists the pitch resulted from poor control, not evil intent.

“I just wanted to get the ball inside on him,” Sanchez said. “The ball kept going up, and it hit him. That was it.”

Craig would not say whether he thinks Sanchez intentionally hit him.

“That's not really important,” Craig said. “It's not my job to judge intent on stuff like that. I'm not the one throwing the ball, so I don't know.”

When an umpire rules a batter was struck intentionally — especially when it's with a pitch near the head — MLB reviews the case.

“It puts a lot more judgment on the umpires,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “Hopefully, they use their good judgment trying to follow what intent is. That becomes kind of cloudy. When that rule came in, you did have to be careful because they were so quick to eject guys. I think they've done a better job here recently. It's a tough call.”

MLB executive vice president of operations Joe Torre called Pirates manager Clint Hurdle on Saturday morning to discuss the situation.

“I shared my thoughts with Joe,” Hurdle said. “He gets the umpire's thoughts and reviews the video tape. We're fortunate to have Joe because he's worn the managerial shoes, but that doesn't mean he's always going to take the manager's side.”

At the start of the season, Cleveland Indians pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez was suspended five games for intentionally hitting Troy Tulowitzki during a spring training game. On April 12, Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco was suspended eight games for intentionally hitting Kevin Youkilis of the New York Yankees.

“There's only one person who can judge intent, and I'm not sure it's Joe Torre,” Hurdle said. “But that's the job he's got. I get that. At the end of the day, the only person who truly knows what happened is Jonathan.”

Sanchez (0-3, 12.71) would have been slated to start Wednesday against the Brewers in Milwaukee. The Pirates have not yet named a starter for that game.

After ejecting Sanchez, Timmons issued a warning to both benches. Yet there was no action taken when Starling Marte and Gaby Sanchez were plunked by Cardinals pitchers later in the game.

Marte was hit twice by starter Lance Lynn. Sanchez was nicked in the eighth inning by Brandon Boggs. A pool reporter later asked Timmons why Lynn was not ejected.

“He didn't hit (Marte) intentionally,” Timmons said.

“That's the whole thing,” added crew chief Mark Winters. “That's what makes the determination — whether we think the pitch was intentional or not.”

What was the determining factor for the two pitches by Lynn to Marte?

“The pitch is just off the plate,” Timmons said. “It's up, but it's not intentionally throwing at him.”

Said Winters: “It's the difference between throwing inside and throwing at someone.”

In the sixth inning, Pirates reliever Jared Hughes sent Lynn tumbling backward with a high-and-tight pitch as Lynn tried to bunt. Lynn doesn't believe Hughes wasn't trying to hit him.

“In talking with (catcher Russell) Martin, I don't think so,” Lynn said. “Hughes has got a sinker, and he was trying to make sure I don't get the bunt down. It was just a ball that got away from him, the same as the ones that got away from me.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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