- Associated Press - Friday, April 29, 2011

ATLANTA (AP) - The Atlanta Braves placed pitching coach Roger McDowell on administrative leave Friday while they investigate allegations he made homophobic comments and crude gestures toward fans before a game in San Francisco last weekend.

McDowell also is accused of using a baseball bat to threaten a fan objecting to his actions.

The former major league reliever apologized in a statement, but the team barred him from the bench heading into a three-game series against St. Louis.

General manager Frank Wren said he hopes to have the investigation wrapped up by end of the weekend, and added that any punishment would be coordinated with Major League Baseball.

The de facto suspension of McDowell came hours after the team announced it was looking into the arrest Thursday night of starting pitcher Derek Lowe on drunken-driving charges, a double dose of trouble for a team that has always prided itself on avoiding off-the-field incidents.

Wren addressed that very issue in a closed team meeting Friday, shortly before the Braves went out for batting practice.

“We have a long-standing reputation in this community and in Major League Baseball that we’re very proud of,” Wren said. “Unfortunately, mistakes have been made, and we’ll deal with them at the appropriate time after careful consideration of all the facts.

“Everyone,” he added, “is very mindful of the position we have and, going forward, being more diligent in making sure we uphold that reputation we’re so proud of.”

While Wren wouldn’t discuss possible sanctions, manager Fredi Gonzalez said he doesn’t expect the incident to cost McDowell his job.

“In my opinion, it shouldn’t. It really shouldn’t,” Gonzalez said. “I’m sure there’s some hoops he’s going to go through, some apologizing, which he should have to go through. But for a person to lose their job, I wouldn’t think so. I hope it doesn’t.”

The altercation at AT&T Park in San Francisco took place last Saturday during pregame batting practice. Justin Quinn was in the stands with his wife and 9-year-old twin daughters when he noticed McDowell hectoring three men and asking them, “Are you guys a homo couple or a threesome?”

After the coach made crude sexual gestures with his hips and a bat, Quinn said he shouted, “Hey there are kids out here.” According to Quinn, McDowell said kids don’t belong at a baseball park, picked up a bat, walked up to Quinn and asked him, “How much are your teeth worth?”

Quinn said he felt threatened and was unsure whether McDowell intended to hit him.

“My kids are in panic mode … they’re like grabbing onto me,” Quinn said Wednesday during a news conference at the office of prominent Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred. “I’m talking to him, trying to calm him down and the kids are screaming.”

Some parents who were in the stands with their children began to boo at McDowell and came down to retrieve their kids. Quinn said that eventually McDowell walked away.

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