Orioles manager Buck Showalter talks about Manny Machado the day after the brawl between Machado and Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura. (Jon Meoli, Baltimore Sun video)
Manny Machado knew he'd likely face a significant suspension for charging the mound and throwing a punch at Kansas City Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura, and now the Orioles will have to prepare for life without the All-Star.
Machado was suspended for four games and issued an undisclosed fine for "charging the mound and fighting" after the league office, which reviewed the umpires' reports and video footage of the incident, reached its decision Thursday. USA Today reporter Machado's fine was $2,500.
Machado, who is among the front runners for American League MVP, is appealing the suspension, so he was in the starting lineup for Thursday's series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. Machado will be able to play throughout the appeal process, but will begin serving any suspension after the appeal decision is announced.
Machado charged the mound in the fifth inning of Tuesday's 9-1 win over the Royals after he was hit in the back by a first-pitch, 99-mph fastball from Ventura. The two had exchanged words after Machado's previous at-bat.
"I've already talked to Manny about it," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We had an idea of what it was going to be, and he'll handle it well. His teammates, more importantly, are looking forward to picking up the slack when it happens, whenever we go without him. … The biggest thing is making sure it's fair and with the appeal, if we don't think it's fair, trying to knock it down. And when the suspension happens, when it happens, we'll take it regardless of who we're playing. That doesn't figure into it for us."
Ventura, who has a growing list of on-field altercations, was suspended nine games for "intentionally throwing at Machado and fighting." He also appealed.
Players suspended for on-field altercations are still paid while serving their suspensions — the fines levied represent the financial punishment in those cases — as opposed to drug suspensions, during which players are not paid.
"We'll see what happens," Machado said. "Obviously, I'm appealing it and we'll see what happens. They came up with a decision and obviously that's why we're going to appeal it and see what happens going on forward. That's the decision they made and I'm obviously going to have to deal with it and see what happens."
The four-game suspension is on par with most incidents involving charging the mound. Since 2000, suspensions for those transgressions have typically ranged from three to eight games, but four games was the most common penalty.
"It's obviously going to suck that I'm going to be out," Machado said. "We're going to be down a guy with only 24 on the roster. It's going to be tough. I know I'm going to deal with the consequences and I have faith in my teammates that they're going to come up and help me out and step up and do what they have to do to keep winning some games and keep doing what they have to do."
A date for Machado's appeal hearing — which will be heard by John McHale Jr., the special assistant to the commissioner — has not yet been set, but appeals are typically arranged within a few weeks of the initial ruling. Scheduling depends somewhat on both parties' schedules and availability, but the league office attempts to expedite the process.
For comparison, suspensions and appeals for the incident between Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor and Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista after Odor punched Bautista followed a hard slide at second base, were completed within 12 days of the initial incident. Odor's eight-game suspension was reduced to seven.
When Machado was suspended five games for throwing his bat two years ago, his punishment was issued two days after the incident. Machado appealed, a process that took about three weeks, before the suspension was upheld.
"There's a process in place for all of this," Showalter said. "…. It will end up being as fair as possible, I have confidence in [that]. Just kind of tough when you have to play short because of something that someone else kind of got going. But we'll see. I know they've put a lot of time and thought into it."
When Machado — who played in his 221st consecutive game Thursday, the longest active streak in the majors — eventually serves his suspension, the Orioles will be short a player on their 25-man roster.
"This is what makes a team," Machado said. "In tough situations, people have got to step up and do what they have to do and I think we have a great group, and that's what they know how to do around here. Everybody is going to have to step up and do what they need to, the part they need to."
In arriving at their decision, the league office considers similar infractions, taking into account what started the incident and what escalated it.
The Orioles are currently without Gold Glove shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is rehabilitating a foot injury in Sarasota, Fla, as well as setup man Darren O'Day, right-handed starter Yovani Gallardo and catcher Caleb Joseph, who are all on the disabled list.
"Manny is a big part of our team and it's always going to be tough," catcher Matt Wieters said. "We're going to miss him on both sides of the ball, but at the same time we've always taken pride in that it doesn't mean we have to miss a beat. The other guys step up. You can win baseball games many ways and we'll just have to find different ways to win ballgames."
Previous transgressions — not limited to infractions that prompt suspensions or fines — are taken into account when deciding on punishment. If the league office has notified a player about particular incidents or behavior that continue to be an issue, it can be factored into the disciplinary process.
Machado was hit on the first pitch of his fifth-inning at-bat Tuesday, then charged the mound and threw a punch with his right hand at Ventura, prompting both dugouts and bullpens to empty as the two tussled on the ground. The fact that Machado threw a punch played a factor in the suspension. Throwing punches and other aggressive actions that intend to hurt a player are considered serious violations by the league office.
Ventura was issued a seven-game suspension last season following a string of events during three straight starts in April. Tuesday's incident wasn't the first time Machado was a target of a beaning. Last September, Washington Nationals pitcher Jonathan Papelbon was suspended three games for "intentionally throwing a pitch in the head area" of Machado.
Ventura hit both Machado and first baseman Chris Davis with pitches during a Sept. 12, 2015, game at Camden Yards.
Because he is a starting pitcher, Ventura's suspension holds less impact. He could miss just one start, but Showalter steered away from criticizing the process.
"That's MLB's business, Kansas City's business," Showalter said. "We're through playing them so far this year unless we both get into the playoffs, so I think enough has been said about it and they don't need me weighing in on it. We'll see what the finished product is.
"I know that playing at 24 in the big leagues is a lot of punishment. It's punishment enough in a lot of ways. But they're trying to do things to try to get people to police their own to prevent stuff from happening."