Cubs’ Lee drops appeal, starts serving suspension


CHICAGO (AP) – Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee dropped his appeal and began serving a five-game suspension Wednesday for his role in a June 16 brawl with the San Diego Padres.

The melee began after Lee was hit by a pitch from San Diego’s Chris Young. Lee, convinced Young was throwing at him, had words with the pitcher as he walked to first base, then threw a punch. Young swung back, and the benches emptied. Lee was hit with the pitch a day after teammate Alfonso Soriano angered some of the Padres by running backward to start a home run trot.

Lee started serving the suspension, in part, because he has a sore left ankle after fouling a pitch off it Tuesday night. Daryle Ward replaced him at first base.

“I was probably going to play today, but rather than limp through a couple of games, I got to serve it some time,” Lee said. “Serve it now. I guess we looked at Arizona and they didn’t have as many lefties, so Daryle can face the right-handers. It was a smart move.”

Besides Wednesday’s game against the Giants, Lee also will miss Thursday’s series finale against San Francisco and then a three-game series at Wrigley Field against the Diamondbacks this weekend.

Lee, the 2005 NL batting champion, is hitting .337 with eight homers and 48 RBIs. He has two homers in his last three games after going 126 at-bats without one.

“Hopefully I can still have that same swing when I come back,” Lee said. He will rejoin Chicago for the opener of a three-game series in St. Louis on Tuesday.

Young, also suspended five games, sat out the last four games before the All-Star break and the first game after it. He and Lee were teammates on the NL All-Star team, and Lee said they said hello to each other.

When a starting pitcher and an everyday player receive the same length of suspension, it doesn’t add up since a pitcher goes every five days and might not even miss a start.

“If we are both suspended, it’s not fair,” Lee said. “He was smart. He got around it. I think Major League Baseball needs to look at that, make the punishment more equal.”

Lee said initially a hearing was scheduled for early July when the Cubs were in Washington but it was rescheduled. He said he heard secondhand there was a chance it would have been held Friday, but he never got a phone call. At best, he said, he might have gotten a one-game reduction, but acknowledged he would have liked to have had his appeal heard.

“You would like to had it right away, if I could have gotten it reduced,” Lee said. “This way you kind of wait and see. Once you have the hearing you have no choice. Who knows if the hearing falls right before an important series. It might not work out in your favor.”

AP-ES-07-18-07 1512EDT