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Royals, Beltran ready to battle over team injury-recovery policy

Center field star suspended for not going to Florida

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NEW YORK — Challenging one of their top players, the Kansas City Royals suspended AL Rookie of the Year Carlos Beltran without pay for refusing to report to the team's Florida training complex for rehabilitation.

The players' association immediately promised to file a grievance Friday and a default notice if the 23-year-old center fielder doesn't receive his full paycheck on Aug. 15.

Kansas City said that if the union acts, it would continue to pay Beltran. Otherwise, the team would risk Beltran becoming a free agent if arbitrator Shyam Das ruled in the union's favor.

Royals general manager Allard Baird said Thursday the team has a policy that players on the disabled list don't travel with the major league club. Baird said Beltran would get back in shape to play quicker in Florida.

"If I make an adjustment for Carlos Beltran, what am I saying to the other 24 players and what am I saying to 150 players in the minor leagues?" Baird said as the Royals waited out a rain delay at Yankee Stadium. "We have to be all created equal in this."

Beltran's agent, Scott Boras, said the Royals' policy violated the collective bargaining agreement.

"The team is saying when you are injured in the line of duty for the Kansas City Royals, you can no longer be with your major league teammates but go to some outside colony," Boras said, emphasizing that Beltran's current workouts are running, hitting and throwing.

"The best trainers the Royals have are in the big leagues. The old Royals didn't do this. The Royals have set up a policy that if you are injured, you are prevented from being with your teammates and you're prevented from being with the major league team."

The team cited a provision in each player's contract citing its right to determine where he's treated. The Royals said the suspension would last for 30 days or until Beltran reports to its Haines City, Fla., training camp, whichever is earlier.

"This is an assignment to the minor leagues," union lawyer Michael Weiner said, "and you can't assign a player on the disabled list to the minor leagues other than a rehabilitation assignment, and he can't be put on a rehabilitation assignment without his consent."

Beltran has been on the disabled list with a bruised right knee since July 5. The Royals said their team physician, Dr. Steve Joyce, recommended a rehabilitation at Haines City.

"He's a great kid," Baird said. "This is a difference of interpretation of a provision."

Beltran makes $350,000 this season, and each day of the suspension would cost him $1,923. He is hitting .247 this year with six homers, 32 RBIs and 10 steals in 10 attempts.

Last year, Beltran batted .293 with 22 homers, 108 RBIs, 112 runs scored and 27 steals in 35 attempts. He became the third Kansas City player voted Rookie of the Year, following Lou Piniella in 1969 and Bob Hamelin in 1994.