Reds’ Pham suspended 3 games for slapping Pederson

CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati Reds outfielder Tommy Pham was suspended by Major League Baseball for three games Saturday after he slapped San Francisco Giants outfielder Joc Pederson because of a dispute about their fantasy football league.

The 34-year-old Pham also was fined. The suspension was made retroactive to Friday night, and he will serve the final two games this weekend.

While the Giants warmed up in the outfield before Friday’s series opener, Pham confronted Pederson and smacked him in the face before the pair was separated.

Pham said Saturday there was some “sketchy” stuff going on with the fantasy league, and Pederson also made “disrespectful” comments about Pham’s former team, the San Diego Padres.

“We had too much money on the line, so I look at it like there’s a code,” Pham said.

Pham also said Pederson was “messing with my money.”

Pederson acknowledged to reporters Saturday that “there was a lot of money involved” and said Pham was telling the truth.

A candid Pederson even showed reporters the GIF he sent teasing Padres players who were in the group chat about their struggles on the field down the stretch last season. Pederson was with the Atlanta Braves at the time, and Pham was playing for San Diego.

“In the group chat there was also some — there was more than one Padre, there was four or five that, I’m kind of close with a couple of them,” Pederson said. “It was supposed to be a friendly thing, just making fun of they were playing bad, and just talking back and forth. And yeah, (Pham) did not like that and he responded, `Joc, I don’t know you well enough to make any jokes like this.’”

Pederson read from his cell phone to reporters what he wrote back.

“`It was meant to be all fun and games. No hard feelings. Sorry if you took it that way.’ And then about two weeks later, after like Week 4 or 5, he ended up leaving the league and there’s been no communication since,” Pederson said. “Like I said, it is true I did send a GIF making fun of the Padres and if I hurt anyone’s feelings, I apologize for that.

“Cause they were a really good team. So, it was kind of making fun of how they were not playing well to make the playoffs with a very talented team,” he explained. “I mean, I was teammates with some of them and it was supposed to be lighthearted, and I understand everyone takes jokes differently. So like I said, I apologize for that, and looking to move past this and show up tomorrow with no distractions and try to help this team win a ballgame.”

Reds manager David Bell said he talked to Pham about what happened, but declined to share what he said.

Pederson said after Friday night’s game that he was accused of cheating for placing a player on injured reserve and replacing him with a free agent in a fantasy football league. Pederson said the player he put on IR had been ruled out for that week, which made it a legal move. He said Pham had executed essentially the same maneuver with his own team.

“I sent a screenshot of the rules, how it says that if a player’s ruled out, you’re allowed to put him on the IR and that’s all I was doing,” Pederson. “He literally did the same thing. That was basically all of it.”

Pederson said he had no advance notice that Pham might confront him during the series in Cincinnati.

“There was no argument. He kind of came up and said, ‘You remember from last year?’ and I said, ‘Fantasy football?’” Pederson recalled.

“I just want to make sure we’re ready to play a baseball game today,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said Saturday before his team’s 3-2 loss to the Reds. “Joc has handled it very well. We can always talk about being non-reactionary. He was able to manage everything that happened.”

The scuffle was witnessed by reporters and occurred before fans entered the ballpark.

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