Mariners’ Lee suspended for first 5 games of season

NEW YORK — Seattle pitcher Cliff Lee was suspended Wednesday for the first five games of the regular season for throwing over the head of a hitter, possibly delaying his highly anticipated debut with the Mariners.

Lee also was fined by Major League Baseball vice president of discipline Bob Watson.

The former AL Cy Young winner was ejected from Monday’s exhibition game against Arizona after throwing inside to Chris Snyder, then zipping a fastball over his helmet.

Lee declined comment Wednesday through a team spokesman.

“I’m sure Cliff’s going to appeal it, so we’ll see where it takes us,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik.

If the players’ union appeals on Lee’s behalf, the penalty would be delayed until after a hearing and a decision.

The Mariners acquired Lee from Philadelphia last December in a four-team, nine-player trade that also sent Toronto ace Roy Halladay to the Phillies. Lee was dealt to the Phillies last July from Cleveland, and became a postseason star.

Seattle was eager to pair Lee with ace Felix Hernandez at the top of the rotation. The Mariners open the season April 5 at Oakland.

“We’d like to get a definitive on this sooner than later so that we can get set,” Zduriencik said. “It’s certainly in everyone’s best interest — the ballclub, the other pitchers and Cliff, for that matter.”

Suspensions that result from incidents in spring training have occurred in the past, although they are rare. In 2008, three players were suspended after the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay brawled.

“Yeah, a little bit surprised,” Zduriencik said. “In the end I don’t think we have a whole lot of comment about it. … There is an appeal process and an opportunity for Cliff to state his case. He will do that and we’ll see what happens.”

The trouble between Lee and Snyder may’ve started in the first inning when they collided as the pitcher was backing up a play at home plate. In the third inning, Lee was tossed after his two pitches to Snyder.

Snyder walked toward the mound and the dugouts and bullpens emptied, but no punches were thrown. Lee denied he was trying to retaliate.

“I was trying to go inside and a couple got away from me and the guy hitting got mad and came close to the mound and I got thrown out of the game in the process,” Lee said then. “That’s it in a nutshell.”

Snyder missed much of last season with injuries. Arizona teammate called Lee’s actions “bush league.”

On Wednesday, the Diamondbacks offered little reaction to the suspension.

“It’s not my call,” Snyder said.

Said Arizona manager A.J. Hinch: “That’s major league baseball’s decision.”

The Mariners and Diamondbacks don’t meet in interleague play this season.

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