NEW YORK, June 20 -- Cleveland Indians outfielder Albert Belle had his suspension reduced again Thursday, from three games to two, and will sit out a doubleheader Friday against the New York Yankees. In a statement released Thursday night, Belle accepted the reduction, saying, 'Although the league president has taken action against me that he would not take against any other player, it is time for me to put the interests of my teammates and the fans of Cleveland ahead of my own.' Belle was not ejected from the game and Gene Orza, the Players Association's associate general counsel, had argued that a frame-by- frame review of a videotape of the play showed Belle did not strike Vina in the face with his forearm. Belle also said he was concerned his original suspension would interfere with upcoming games against the Chicago White Sox, who are challenging the Indians for first place in the American League Central. 'I can best contribute to the team by putting this matter behind me and concentrating all of my efforts on the game of baseball,' he added. American League President Gene Budig also imposed a $25,000 fine after the Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance challenging Belle's three-game suspension, which Budig reduced from five games on Tuesday. 'Anyone who cares about baseball believes the focus must return to the field and this action accomplishes that,' Budig said in a prepared statement. 'It is clearly in the best interests of the game.
The added fine of $25,000 will advance the cause of baseball among the young in Cleveland. It will fuel interest and enhance access for urban youngsters through the RBI Program.' Belle was suspended following an incident on May 31 in Milwaukee in which he struck Brewers second baseman Fernando Vina while attempting to break up a double play. Budig said he suspended Belle because he believed the slugger threatened injury with his apparent forearm to Vina's face. 'What Albert Belle did crossed the line and it was wrong whether it violated a written rule or not,' Budig said. The Players Association filed a grievance after Belle's suspension was reduced to three games, but Thursday agreed to stay an arbitrator's decision on the matter. 'I don't know of anyone who desires more than Albert Belle does, to have on-field play be the stuff of the morning sports pages,' Orza said. 'This resolution helps accomplish that and, on that basis alone, is the prudent way to proceed.' In a letter to Budig, Orza said Belle agreed to serve the suspension on Friday, adding that the Association has recommended to Belle that he pursue no court action challenging Budig's latest decision. The MLBPA also will not join any action should Belle decide to file any