NEW YORK -- On the evening the Yankees and Rays were set to renew their budding rivalry from this spring, all three players disciplined for a March 12 on-field incident dropped their appeals and agreed to reduced suspensions.
The Yankees' Melky Cabrera and Shelley Duncan had been scheduled to have their respective appeals heard on Monday in New York, but will instead serve two-game suspensions. Cabrera's suspension started on Friday, while Duncan will begin his on Monday.
"The most important thing is what's best for the team," Duncan said. "It's not for my own personal interest. I need to take that seriously and listen. It's the right thing to do."
Cabrera and Duncan were suspended for three games and fined $2,500 and $3,000, respectively, for their actions as the Yankees and Rays spilled onto the field at Progress Energy Park in St. Petersburg. Rays right fielder Jonny Gomes also dropped his appeal and had his two-game suspension reduced to a single game, which he served on Friday.
"It was a situation that was hovering over, and the Players Association and the Commissioner's Office got together and found common ground," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "It's time to serve and you move on. It's as simple as that."
The incident sparked when Duncan slid spikes-high into the Rays' Akinori Iwamura, opening a small gash on the infielder's right thigh. Duncan was immediately ejected and Gomes escalated the incident by hitting Duncan from behind.
In the ensuing argument, video evidence obtained by Major League Baseball allegedly showed Cabrera punching Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria in the back of the head.
"They didn't tell me that," Cabrera said Friday. "I'm just concentrating on playing baseball."
With Cabrera immediately serving his two-game suspension, Johnny Damon shifted to center field on Friday for New York, with Hideki Matsui moving to left field. Duncan -- who has yet to appear in a game this season -- opened Friday on the bench.
"Realistically, I don't think you can expect anything less than what they just got," Cashman said.
Duncan had insisted that he would have appreciated the opportunity to sit down with MLB discipline czar Bob Watson to explain his side of events. Duncan said he would not change the way he plays as a result of the suspension.
"I'll still play the game the same way," Duncan said. "There is no change. I believe deep down in my heart there is a right way to play the game, and I need to honor that."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.