NEW YORK -- John Rocker's suspension was cut in half to the first 14 days of the regular season, and he can report to the Atlanta Braves' spring training camp Thursday, The Associated Press learned today.
The reliever, punished for disparaging foreigners, homosexuals and minorities in a magazine interview, could arrive in Kissimmee, Fla., in time for workouts Thursday, baseball sources familiar with the arbitrator's decision told the AP on the condition they not be identified.
Shyam Das, making his first decision as baseball's independent arbitrator, also cut Rocker's $20,000 fine. The amount of the fine will be reduced to $500, one of the sources said.
There was no immediate announcement by the Braves, but a news conference was expected at 3 p.m. EST.
Rocker originally was suspended for all 45 days of spring training and the first 28 days of the regular season by commissioner Bud Selig.
In his Jan. 31 decision, Selig said Rocker's comments in a December issue of Sports Illustrated "offended practically every element of society."
Rocker will wind up missing the first 13 days of spring training and, if no games are postponed by weather, the first 12 games of the regular season. Atlanta's first game after the suspension is against Philadelphia at Turner Field on April 18.
Rocker told the magazine he would never play for a New York team because he didn't want to ride a subway train "next to some queer with AIDS." He also mocked foreigners and called a Latin teammate a "fat monkey."
The players' association filed a grievance against Selig, arguing the penalty was too great when compared with past discipline by the commissioner's office. The union repeatedly has succeeded in convincing arbitrators to overturn or reduce suspensions.
Selig's original penalty was believed to be the longest against a baseball player for an action not related to drug use since Lenny Randle of Texas got 30 days in March 1977 for punching his manager, Frank Lucchesi.
The 25-year-old reliever was heavily criticized by Atlanta civic officials and even teammates. But since training camp opened, some Braves have said they would be willing to forgive Rocker if he showed remorse through his words and actions. Braves owner Ted Turner said he deserved a second chance.
Rocker was repeatedly taunted by New York Mets' fans during the pennant race and NL championship series, and then by New York Yankees' fans during the World Series. Several fans threw objects at the pitcher and some spit at him,
In his most extensive comments since the furor began, Rocker told ESPN in December he had lost his cool in the magazine interview and said things he didn't mean about New York fans because he wanted "to inflict some emotional pain in retaliation to the pain that had been inflicted on me."
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