- Associated Press - Thursday, August 12, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Suspended Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez was released without bail Thursday and ordered to stay away from his girlfriend’s father, whom he is accused of attacking outside a family lounge at Citi Field.

Rodriguez was arrested and charged with third-degree assault after New York’s 6-2 loss to Colorado on Wednesday night. The team put him on the restricted list without pay for two days, costing him more than $125,000.

The 28-year-old reliever is accused of grabbing 53-year-old Carlos Pena, hauling him into a nearby tunnel, hitting him in the face and banging his head against the wall. Pena went to a hospital with a scrape and swelling above his right eyebrow.

Rodriguez did not enter a plea. Held overnight at Citi Field, he wore jeans, a white dress shirt and sneakers in a Queens courthouse. He did not speak, but nodded as the judge spoke to him.

“Ownership and the organization are very disappointed in Francisco’s inappropriate behavior and we take this matter very seriously,” Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said.

Said star center fielder Carlos Beltran: “No one should act like that.”

“He feels sorry about what happened, but it’s too late,” he said. “We all have family issues. But those family issues should be addressed at the house, not near the ballpark, nor at the place where you work.”

Judge Mary O’Donoghue in Queens Criminal Court issued orders of protection for Rodriguez to stay away from his girlfriend _ Daian Pena, the mother of their 1-year-old twins _ and her father.

Police initially identified Carlos Pena as Rodriguez’s father-in-law. The pitcher’s lawyer said Rodriguez and the woman are not married.

Assistant District Attorney Kristen Kane was denied her request for $5,000 bail. Rodriguez was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court Sept. 14.

“Everyone knows who he is, and where he is,” countered defense attorney Christopher Booth, adding that they’d just have to check the Mets bullpen.

Rodriguez is not allowed to go home by himself. He must get a police escort to take him there between now and Saturday so he can gather belongings.

“Mr. Rodriguez is obviously distressed. He’s 28 years old and never had anything like this happen to him before. It’s quite a shock for a young man to be put into handcuffs and taken away and charged,” Booth said.

Booth, who called Rodriguez a “family man,” declined to answer reporters’ questions about what happened.

Daian Pena told investigators she was inside the lounge _ near the clubhouse and ordinarily a convivial spot where players meet their relatives after games _ when Rodriguez appeared and told her to bring her father outside.

She “observed the defendant pin her father against a wall and punch her father multiple times in the face and head,” the criminal complaint said.

Her account was confirmed by the father, who “suffered bruising, swelling, abrasions and redness to the head and pain to his neck,” the complaint said.

The Mets, already reeling on the field, now face legal issues involving two of their star pitchers. A Florida woman who accused Johan Santana of rape recently sued the Mets ace after authorities declined to prosecute.

The Mets said Rodriguez will not be with the team during his suspension. If the ban is not reversed, Rodriguez would lose $125,683 of his $11.5 million salary.

Officials of the Major League Baseball Players Association started discussions with lawyers for Major League Baseball. Suspensions without pay in non-drug matters are unusual in baseball.

Manager Jerry Manuel said Rodriguez’s actions were not a distraction to his team, which beat Colorado 4-0 Thursday and reached the .500 mark.

“These are men, and they have a job to do,” he said. “When you cross those lines, regardless of what you’ve done before or after that, that’s what matters.”

Manuel said it would be unfair to judge Rodriguez until all the facts emerge. Still, he was disappointed.

“For me, to get to that level at anything is not something that you encourage,” he said. “You would hope that (with) conversation or whatever, you would be able to solve it. But you still have to weight what spurred such an action. That has to be a part of it, despite that it’s wrong.”

Mets players said uniformly they will back Rodriguez when he returns.

“We support him 100 percent,” Santana said. “I’m just hoping to get him back as soon as possible. He means a lot to this ballclub.”

Shortstop Jose Reyes said his wife and daughter were in the family room when the fight occurred.

“I don’t know exactly what happened,” Reyes said. “You don’t want to see that happen, especially here at the ballpark. I hope he comes clean about what happened because we need him here.”

Mets outfielder Jeff Francoeur’s wife was in the lounge.

“I think it happened more outside, I think, not directly in the family room,” he said.

Rodriguez has had previous confrontations with a team official, a coach and an opponent in his 1 1/2 seasons with the Mets, though none reached this level.

“Maybe it’s a distraction we need,” Francoeur said. “Not to say it’s a good thing. But maybe at the end of the day we can turn it into a positive. I know for him, it’s between him and his family.”

The excitable pitcher signed a $37 million, three-year contract with the Mets after saving a record 62 games with the Angels in 2008. His deal that includes a $17.5 million team option for 2012 that would become guaranteed if he remains healthy and has 100 games finished this year and next, including 55 in 2011.

Rodriguez is 4-2 with 25 saves and a 2.24 ERA this season.

In May, Rodriguez and bullpen coach Randy Niemann got into a heated exchange while the pitcher was preparing to enter a game. Manuel later said the matter was resolved, without divulging what caused the dispute.

In July 2009, Rodriguez and former Mets official Tony Bernazard argued aboard the team bus. Bernazard was later fired by the Mets amid several allegations.

That June, Rodriguez and New York Yankees reliever Brian Bruney needed to be separated before a game. They had jawed at each other in the media a day earlier.

With Rodriguez out, right-hander Ryota Igarashi was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo to fill the roster spot. Igarashi’s team was in Scranton, Pa., and he took a taxi for $300 and got to Citi Field in the sixth inning.


Associated Press Writers Tom Hays and Frank Eltman in New York and AP Baseball Writers Ben Walker in New York and Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

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