Major League Baseball announced today that Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper has been suspended for one game for returning to the field of play after an ejection (during the team’s celebration of a walk-off home run) and subsequently cursing at home plate umpire Brian Knight, who ejected Harper for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout during Danny Espinosa’s ninth-inning at-bat. Harper is appealing the suspension, and as MLB.com’s Jon Morosi notes (Twitter link), Ian Kinsler won a somewhat similar appeal after he was suspended for a game in 2010 upon returning to the field to celebrate a walk-off home celebration with the Rangers. Kinsler, of course, didn’t fire expletives at the home-plate umpire in his return to the field. All that said, Knight’s decision to eject Harper appears fairly dubious in the first place; manager Dusty Baker told the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes that the majority of the Nationals’ roster was up on the edge of the dugout letting Knight hear it over what they felt to be an incorrect call (though the pitch, in retrospect, did clip part of the strike zone), and Harper didn’t use any profanity in his initial comments. Harper had been in an argument with Knight earlier in the game, Janes notes.
Elsewhere in the division…
- The Marlins’ offseason maneuverings have succeeded in beginning to change the organizational culture, writes Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Most notably, the hiring of manager Don Mattingly and the addition of special assistant Jim Benedict and farm director Marc DelPiano (both from the Pirates organization) has already had a significant impact. Ace Jose Fernandez tells Jackson that Mattingly is “amazing” and says that he is “in love with this team” in large part due to Mattingly’s demeanor and attention to detail. Jeff Mathis and David Phelps each rave about Mattingly as well. Meanwhile, setup man Kyle Barraclough explains that Benedict took him aside to go over video of his mechanics in the minors and smooth out his delivery, which has yielded positive early returns. The club is spending money on minor league facilities and emphasizing fundamentals throughout the lower ranks in ways in which it never has, Jackson writes, helping to facilitate change from top to bottom.
- Carlos Ruiz’s strong start to the season likely increases his marketability in trades this summer, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. While Gelb is quick to note that Ruiz, of course, will not net the Phillies a top prospect, the dearth of quality offensive backstops around the league could make Ruiz stand out, particularly for clubs in need of catching help that do not want to meet Milwaukee’s asking price for Jonathan Lucroy. Manager Pete Mackanin feels that decreased playing time has helped the 37-year-old Ruiz realize improved production, as his body isn’t being worn down by the rigors of catching on three or four consecutive days. Gelb notes that Ruiz does have a partial no-trade clause, and perhaps more interestingly, will gain full 10-and-5 rights on July 14 — just over two weeks before the Aug. 1 deadline. That would allow Ruiz to veto any trade proposal, though a move from a rebuilding club to a contender could hold some appeal to the veteran catcher. Ruiz wouldn’t tip his hand one way or another, simply saying he’s “really happy” in Philadelphia but noting that “anything can happen” at the trade deadline.
- Braves GM John Coppolella tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that any of Ozhaino Albies, Rio Ruiz, Dansby Swanson, Lucas Sims and Tyrell Jenkins could be promoted to the Majors this season, describing each prospect as “close” to MLB-ready. Coppolella also acknowledged the issue of manager Fredi Gonzalez’s job security, though he didn’t take a firm stance one way or the other. “My hope, and I don’t know whether or not it’s going to happen, is that Fredi is here to see it,” said Coppolella in reference to the Braves’ return to prominence. “I don’t know that he will be, I don’t know that he won’t be. I want him to succeed. I care about the man personally.”