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Gregg, Ortiz will start ban tonight

The two main combatants in the contentious and ejection-filled Orioles-Boston Red Sox series earlier this month won't be in uniform tonight as the two clubs renew acquaintances.

Orioles right-hander Kevin Gregg and Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who charged the mound in the eighth inning on July 8 at Fenway Park after the closer threw three straight pitches inside and then yelled at him to run to first base, have had their suspensions reduced from four games to three, and their fines reduced. Those suspensions will start tonight, taking both players out of the three-game series.

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Both teams will be forced to play shorthanded, and are unable to fill those roster spots.

Gregg and Ortiz appealed the suspensions, which were handed out last Thursday by Major League Baseball. However, after several discussions with the league and the player's union in recent days, both players have agreed to drop their appeals and serve their suspensions immediately at the reduced three games.

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Orioles reliever Michael Gonzalez, who was banned for three games after he threw a pitch behind Ortiz in the July 10 series finale, will be available for the series. He has also appealed his suspension, and he won't start serving it until after Gregg returns.

The series between the two clubs earlier this month, which resulted in a four-game Red Sox sweep, produced eight ejections, and five hit batters. Red Sox pitching hit four of those batters including Vladimir Guerrero, who is now on the disabled list with a fractured bone in his right hand after he was hit by rookie Kyle Weiland in the series finale.

The Orioles remained miffed at the league for its handling of the incident, that three Orioles (Gregg, Gonzalez and manager Buck Showalter) were handed out suspensions while only one Red Sox (Ortiz) got one.

They felt that Ortiz deserved a harsher penalty than Gregg because the slugger came to the mound twice (though Gregg clearly provoked the second visit by yelling at Ortiz). They also felt that Red Sox starter John Lackey deserved a suspension for hitting both Nick Markakis and Derrek Lee the following day.

Lackey, who was fined, is not scheduled to pitch in the series.

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