SAN FRANCISCO — Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster was suspended for five games by Major League Baseball for intentionally throwing at Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez Sunday night. The righthander did not appeal and began serving his sentence on Tuesday.
Dempster also was fined $2,500.
But Dempster continued to deny he threw at Rodriguez on purpose when he drilled the accused drug cheat on the elbow with a fastball after throwing his first pitch behind Rodriguez and the next two inside.
“I thought about appealing. But at the end of the day, Major League Baseball does a really good job of thinking through punishments before they hand them out,” Dempster said before the Red Sox played the Giants. “I just thought it was in the best interests of us as a team to go ahead and serve my suspension.”
Dempster (6-9 with a 4.77 earned run average) had been scheduled to face the Dodgers on Saturday. The Sox will instead move Jon Lester into the game and start Jake Peavy on Sunday night.
With the Red Sox off on Thursday and Monday, the suspension has virtually no effect on the team. Dempster could return Tuesday at Fenway Park against the Orioles.
In New York, the Yankees were upset with what they viewed as a light punishment for Dempster.
“If you suspend a position player three games, he misses three games. You can suspend a pitcher five games, even six games and they may not miss a start if the off days come into play,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters. “That’s why I think the off days have to be taken into account when you make a suspension.”
Girardi was fined $5,000 by MLB for his argument with umpire Brian O’Nora, who did not eject Dempster at the time.
Said Yankees starter CC Sabathia: “I thought [Dempster] at least should miss a start and he’s not going to do that. I don’t think it does anything.”
It was the first suspension of Dempster’s 16-year career. He said he did not want to appeal because the practical thing was to sit out this week.
“It has to do with taking my suspension and putting it past me,” he said. “No point in carrying on an appeal process. We have other things to worry about. We have to go out there and win a game tonight. I’ll take my punishment.”
Dempster denied that he had any personal vendetta with Rodriguez or was trying to exact justice for appealing a 211-game suspension for taking performance-enhancing drugs.
Dempster stuck with the claim that he was simply trying to pitch inside.
“No, I’ll never take away trying to pitch inside,” Dempster said when asked if he had any regrets. “That’s a real important part to pitching to any hitter, especially big power hitters.”
Hitting Rodriguez backfired. He scored in that inning and later drove in two runs, the second with a long home run to center field in the sixth inning of a game the Yankees won, 9-6.
Rodriguez appeared to be shouting at Dempster when he hit the home run.
Dempster said he heard nothing.
“He was fired up he hit a homer. I’d be fired up if I got hit by a pitch and hit a home run,” Dempster said.
Dempster said he wasn’t admitting guilt by taking the suspension and he would have welcomed the opportunity to present his case by appealing.
But taking the suspension now made more sense. He will pitch a simulated game in Los Angeles on Friday to stay sharp and prepare him for his next start.
“You’re just dragging things on for what reason, to get it reduced a game or two? I don’t know what would happen. This is a chance for us as a team and me to just put it all behind us.
“I wish things would have played out differently. I didn’t want to get suspended but they handed down a suspension.”
Red Sox manger John Farrell, while repeating his stance that Dempster had no ill intent, didn’t have a problem with the length of the suspension.
“We fully respect what MLB has decided to do in handing down the suspension. Never has it been uttered it was unjust,” Farrell said. “To Ryan’s credit, he’s serving his suspension starting tonight.”
The question now is whether the Yankees will retaliate against the Red Sox. The teams meet again Sept. 5 in New York.
“We have a strong group of guys in there, guys who have been hit by a lot of pitches. I’m sure if something like that happens, I’m sure Major League Baseball will look into it and take action,” Dempster said.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.