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Willson Contreras gets two-game suspension following altercation with umpire

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Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras has been handed a two-game suspension and a fine after a heated confrontation with home plate umpire Jordan Baker on Friday afternoon. Right-hander John Lackey has also been fined, though neither amount has been disclosed.

The altercation arose in the fifth inning of the Cubs’ 8-2 win over the Cardinals, when Baker misread a pitch to Carlos Martinez and called Ball 3 on what should have been an inning-ending strikeout. Not only did the botched call extend the at-bat, but it gave Martinez the opportunity he needed for an RBI single, handing the Cardinals a 2-1 lead as Kolten Wong scooted home. From there, things got a bit dicey:

Predictably, both Lackey and Contreras were ejected following the tiff. Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon came to his catcher’s defense in the postgame press conference, telling reporters, “There was no intent at the umpire whatsoever. He slammed [the helmet] down in anger.”

Intentional or not, arguing balls and strikes¬†and making contact with an umpire are two pretty clear-cut no-nos. As expected, Contreras decided to appeal his suspension and will still be eligible to play in Saturday’s game against the Cardinals.

Blue Jays shut down Steve Pearce for the rest of 2017

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The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.

Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.

With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.

Brewers’ Julio Mendez remains hospitalized after hit by pitch

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Brewers’ minor league infielder Julio Mendez remains in “critical but stable condition,” club GM David Stearns announced Friday. Back in August, Mendez suffered a cardiac event after he was inadvertently struck by a ball from the Angels’ Austin Krzeminksi during a game between the rookie-level affiliates. The 20-year-old was removed to a Phoenix-area hospital for treatment following the incident and has recently been transferred to a hospital in his native Venezuela.

Mendez was in his fourth season with the Brewers’ organization. He spent the majority of his 2017 run with the rookie-level AZL Brewers, slashing .255/.294/.355 with 10 extra-base hits, 16 RBI and four stolen bases over 119 plate appearances. He currently holds a career .241/.324/.309 batting line, 33 extra bases and a .633 OPS through 668 PA.

Baseball is still on the back burner, however, as Mendez appears to have made little progress nearly a month following the hit by pitch. Thoughts go out to his family during this difficult time.