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Hurdle begins suspension; 3 players appeal

@adamdberry
August 2, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- The suspensions handed down by Major League Baseball on Thursday had only one immediate impact on the Pirates when they returned to PNC Park on Friday: When game time rolled around, manager Clint Hurdle wasn’t able to manage. Hurdle and three Pirates players were suspended after their benches-clearing

PITTSBURGH -- The suspensions handed down by Major League Baseball on Thursday had only one immediate impact on the Pirates when they returned to PNC Park on Friday: When game time rolled around, manager Clint Hurdle wasn’t able to manage.

Hurdle and three Pirates players were suspended after their benches-clearing brawl with the Reds on Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park. All three players appealed their suspensions, making them available to play in the meantime, while Hurdle began serving his two-game suspension on Friday night, sitting out the Pirates’ 8-4 win over the Mets. Bench coach Tom Prince stepped in to serve as acting manager.

“There’s a process that can be in place for players to appeal. We’ll walk through that together,” Hurdle said. “[MLB is] definitely of the opinion that we need to change the focus back on the game and not the fighting that goes on sometimes within the game, and to take a firm stand against this becoming a deterrent to anything that could happen in the future. I understand that completely.”

Reliever Keone Kela (10 games), infielder/outfielder José Osuna (five games) and reliever Kyle Crick (three games) will begin serving their suspensions after their appeals are processed and/or dropped. Kela and Osuna said they were surprised their discipline was as strict as it was.

“With everything that transpired over that series, I’m hoping that they can evaluate it and assess the situation and I can get some games knocked off, if possible,” Kela said.

Kela, who was suspended for throwing a pitch over Derek Dietrich’s head, reiterated on Friday that he was never trying to hit the Reds infielder. Kela thought his postgame comments, in which he admitted he was trying to throw a purpose pitch to Dietrich, provided MLB with a reason to “give me what they gave me and set an example.”

Kela didn’t back down from what he said then, though.

“Me being honest, I guess the truth will get you crucified,” Kela said. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to sit here and bald-faced lie. The game sees enough of that. I think that you [reporters] have asked guys on different occasions what happened with a certain pitch, and they’ll go ahead and say that it slipped. But we’re professionals. Every guy knows where their pitch is going because you don’t make any pitch in the big leagues without intention; if you are, you’re probably not going to last long in this game.

“My intentions are pure. If I wanted to hit the man, I would have hit him. I didn’t. I went forth and struck him out on four pitches. I thought that was the most professional way for me to handle it. I’ve got my guys’ backs.”

The Pirates will host the Reds at PNC Park for a three-game series that begins on Aug. 23.

Hurdle said Pittsburgh’s pitchers can’t let the suspensions affect their approach on the mound, but they do need to command the ball better.

“I can’t control what other people’s perceptions are. I’m not going to waste my time or my energy,” Hurdle said. “What works for us, pitching, is to be aggressive to both sides of the plate for strikes, for pitches off … and to continue to do that professionally and game-appropriately.”

Around the horn
• Left-hander Steven Brault, sidelined by a strained shoulder for nearly a month, worked four innings and threw 76 pitches during a rehab start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Thursday. Brault gave up two runs on three hits and five walks while striking out two.

“I think he was geared up and ready to go, maybe more geared up than he even thought he’d be,” Hurdle said. “A lot of guys go down saying, ‘Ah, it’s a Triple-A game.’ I don’t think there’s any such thing with Steven when he goes down.”

The Pirates have not yet decided what will come next for Brault, Hurdle said. If he rejoins the big league rotation, he could start against the Brewers on Tuesday night at PNC Park.

• The Pirates had Alex McRae start against the Mets in place of Jordan Lyles on Monday after trading the veteran right-hander to Milwaukee. This time through the rotation, they will push Joe Musgrove up to start the series finale on Sunday at PNC Park. Musgrove will be pitching on regular rest, however, as the Pirates were off on Thursday.

• According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, bullpen coach Euclides Rojas’ two-game suspension -- which he served in Cincinnati -- came after Rojas took part in a physical altercation with Crick last Sunday. The Pirates have only said that Rojas was suspended for a violation of his contract, offering no further comment.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.