Three Suspended After Cubs-Astros Series

Thursday, September 2nd 2004, 8:25 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Chicago Cubs reliever Kent Mercker and Houston Astros right-hander Dan Wheeler were each suspended for three games Thursday after a testy series last weekend at Wrigley Field.

Astros manager Phil Garner was suspended for one game. All three were fined undisclosed amounts by Bob Watson, vice president of on-field operations for Major League Baseball.

The Astros were off Thursday and the suspensions were to begin Friday against Pittsburgh. Wheeler, recently acquired from the New York Mets, and Mercker could appeal, delaying the punishment.

In his Houston debut, Wheeler hit Chicago first baseman Derrek Lee with a pitch in the ninth inning Sunday after both teams had been warned about beanballs. The benches cleared for the second time in the four-game series, though no punches were thrown.

Wheeler and Garner were ejected. Houston sluggers Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman had been plunked an inning before.

Mercker was disciplined for his actions last Friday at Wrigley Field, where he reportedly yelled at umpire C.B. Bucknor in a dugout runway after the Cubs' 15-7 loss. The left-hander also hit Houston starter Roy Oswalt with a pitch in that game and got a warning, but was not ejected.

Mercker's suspension was scheduled to begin Friday, but Chicago's game at Florida was postponed because of Hurricane Frances. No decision had been made on whether to call games off Saturday or Sunday, or when Friday's postponement will be made up.

He's the latest in a long list of Cubs pitchers to be suspended this season, including Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and LaTroy Hawkins. Wood and Hawkins were suspended for run-ins with umpires, and Zambrano for hitting Cardinals star Jim Edmonds with a pitch.

Also, Texas Rangers third-base coach Steve Smith was suspended for two games for his conduct and comments to umpire Jerry Meals during a game against Minnesota on Aug. 25. Smith's suspension was slated to start Thursday night against the Twins. He also was fined an undisclosed amount.