Barrett back from suspension in time for city series

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Cubs catcher served a 10-game suspension for the fight in a previous meeting with the White Sox.

CHICAGO -- Michael Barrett's 10-game suspension for punching A.J. Pierzynski ends Friday, just in time for the Cubs catcher to play in what promises to be an emotionally charged rematch with the White Sox.

"I just reacted," Barrett said Wednesday, looking back on his punch that set off a brawl May 20. "Like I said, I'm not happy about what happened. ... You know we all make mistakes, we all do things that certainly when you look back on, hindsight is 20/20. But it's time to move on and play baseball."

Nearly a month after the brawl and three weeks after the suspension was announced, Barrett finally got an appeal hearing from Major League Baseball, but the length of the original punishment was upheld. White Sox outfielder Brian Anderson got a five-game suspension and third base coach Joey Cora two games for their roles in the fight.

Pierzynski ran hard into Barrett, knocking him over to score. Pierzynski then slapped home plate and as he got up and moved in Barrett's direction -- he said he was going to retrieve his helmet -- the Cubs' catcher punched him, setting off the brawl.

"He's a fellow catcher. I respect all catchers in the game and what they do on a daily basis," Barrett said.

"I have no ill feelings toward A.J. or toward the White Sox, or toward [manager] Ozzie [Guillen], I just want to beat them," Barrett added.

The Cubs and White Sox have continued to go in different directions since their first meeting, when the White Sox won two of three at U.S. Cellular Field.

The White Sox have forged the second-best record in the major leagues behind Detroit and were 50-26 before playing Pittsburgh on Wednesday. The Cubs were 28-48 entering play Wednesday against the Brewers.

Both managers have been under heavy criticism -- the Cubs' Dusty Baker for the team's dismal performance and the White Sox's Guillen for calling a Chicago sports columnist a derogatory term that describes someone's sexual orientation.

With the city's passion for its two baseball teams, the White Sox's success, the Cubs' lack of it and the brawl, Wrigley Field promises to be rocking when the three-game series kicks off Friday.

Barrett said he will do his best to keep his emotions under control and try to forget about what happened during the first meeting.

"I guess the biggest thing right now is putting those things behind you," he said. "I know it's easier said than done.

"I'm sure that the atmosphere here is going to be electric and very emotional. It's going to be up to us as players to try to control it the best we can and just play the game."

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