- The Washington Times - Monday, September 28, 2015

Jonathan Papelbon will not pitch for the Washington Nationals again this season following his altercation with Bryce Harper in the dugout in the eighth inning of Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Papelbon dropped his appeal of a three-game suspension handed down by Major League Baseball for throwing at Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado in a game last Wednesday, then was suspended four games without pay by the Nationals for the incident on Sunday.

“We hold our players to a high standard,” general manager Mike Rizzo said on Monday, not long after the Nationals defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 5-1, in the final game at Nationals Park this season.

“Holding people to higher standards is what we’re all about,” Rizzo said. “Every player acquisition we make, makeup and character are a big portion of the evaluation process, and we thought that what happened, the incident in the dugout, was unacceptable, and we acted accordingly.”

Papelbon appeared to take issue on Sunday with how Harper left the batter’s box and ran to first base following a pop-up. The closer was waiting for Harper on the top step of the dugout, and the two began exchanging words, with Papelbon later grabbing Harper by the throat and backing him against a wall.

The two players were separated by shortstop Ian Desmond, pitching coach Steve McCatty and hitting coach Rick Schu, among others. Harper immediately retreated to the clubhouse and did not return to the game. Papelbon pitched the ninth inning and allowed five runs, two earned, on one hit and two walks in the 12-5 loss.

Manager Matt Williams said Papelbon “would not have gone out for the ninth inning” had he been aware of the extent of the incident. With Harper’s pop-out serving as the first out of the eighth inning, Williams said he was focused on the match-ups of what was, at the time, a tie game, and that he did not see the altercation unfolding in the opposite corner of the dugout — a situation Rizzo thought “was odd.”

“I take responsibility for that,” Williams said. “I could have gotten more information in that regard. I could have gotten more specifics on it. Again, at that moment, it’s over with very quickly. They go their separate ways, and we’re in the middle of an inning, so in that regard, I could have asked for more specifics, yes.”

Asked why other coaches or other players wouldn’t have told him about the incident, Williams said it’s not their role to approach him and let him know if such a situation occurs.

“There’s one guy that makes the decision on lineups, on who to play, who to pinch-hit for, who to bring in from the bullpen, whatever that is,” Williams said. “That’s my decision. Again, I didn’t get all the facts at that time, so that lies with me. Beyond that, it’s not a coach’s responsibility to come to me and say, ‘I think you should do X, Y or Z.’ That’s the manager’s decision.”

By terms of the league suspension, Papelbon was not permitted to be at Nationals Park on Monday, and Williams, who had not spoken to Papelbon before the game, said it would be unlikely he would join the team on the road trip, either in Atlanta or New York. Rizzo said he spoke to Papelbon by phone to inform him of the suspension, and although Papelbon was unhappy, he said, the call ended amicably.

Although Harper, the presumptive National League MVP, was not scheduled to play on Monday, the team termed the benching as part of Harper’s punishment for being involved in the altercation.

“It was unfortunate what happened yesterday,” Harper said after the game. “You don’t expect to fight your teammates or anything like that. … If we want to win a World Series, we all got to stick together and do the things we need to do to win ballgames.”

Williams declined to address whether Papelbon, who is 2-2 with a 3.04 ERA with the Nationals and has saved seven games since being picked up on July 23, would return to the team next season.

Rizzo was equally indirect, but did point to Papelbon’s contract status — Washington picked up his $11 million option in return for Papelbon waiving his no-trade clause — as a fallback.

“We’re going to evaluate every moving part that we have after the season and we’ll make all those decisions once the final out is made in 2015,” Rizzo said.


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