Kung fu Cueto emerges as brawl villain

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One interesting result of the big Cardinals-Reds square dance on Tuesday night – aside from the fact that only the managers were ejected, is that Brandon Phillips was not the one to emerge as Public Enemy No. 1.

(You can see different videos of the brawl here, here and here.) 

The real post-brawl villain was Cincinnati kicker – I mean pitcher – Johnny Cueto, who went all kung fu in a panic after he was shoved against the net behind home plate. Cueto said he was trying to protect himself, but the Cardinals said he was reckless in lashing out with his cleats, giving St. Louis pitcher Chris Carpenter some scrapes on his back and sides, and catcher Jason LaRue a potential concussion.

From John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“All I know is we exchanged words and the next thing I know I was in the net with somebody kicking me in the back from behind,” Chris Carpenter said. “I wasn’t throwing any punches, nobody was throwing any punches, and then we’ve got some guy kicking me in the back and ends up kicking my backup catcher in the face and splitting his face open.

The Cardinals said LaRue may have a concussion.

“He could have done some real damage (on LaRue), he got him in the side of his eye, he got him in his nose, he got him in his face. Totally unprofessional. Unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like that. He got kicked square in the side of the face with spikes. C’mon, give me a break.”

Like on Monday, the Cardinals got the last laugh, winning 8-4 to move into first place in the NL Central. Cueto (11-3) took the loss, allowing five runs (four earned) and 5.1 innings.

Now we’ve got some serious juice in this division race, a race that some think could go all the way to the end. The teams lock horns again on Wednesday, then again for a three-game series in St. Louis in early September. Buckle up folks, it’s going to be a fun ride.

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Johnny Monell signs with KBO’s KT Wiz

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 06:  Johnny Monell #19 of the New York Mets runs back to the dugout after he scored in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on July 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.

Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.

The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.