TORONTO - Popular hockey personality Don Cherry defended troubled Washington Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon for choking teammate Bryce Harper in a multi-tweet rant on Tuesday.
Cherry, co-host of the popular "Coach's Corner" segment on "Hockey Night in Canada," said Papelbon shouldn't have confronted Harper publicly, but had no problem with the choke.
"Alright, Papelbon shouldn't have done what he did to Harper on the bench. He should have waited for him in the tunnel and choked him there," Cherry tweeted.
The Nationals suspended Papelbon for four games without pay for his dugout altercation with Harper during Washington's 12-5 home loss to Philadelphia on Sunday.
Harper flied out in the eighth inning against Philadelphia and, after getting out of the batters box slowly on the play, headed to the dugout, where he and Papelbon exchanged words. The argument escalated, and Papelbon reached out with his left hand and grabbed Harper by the throat.
Cherry criticized Harper, a serious National League MVP candidate, for not showing enough hustle during the routine out.
"Some people say they can understand how Harper just jogs down to first on a pop up," he posted. "They say well, hey they have already played 152 games. The guy is getting 10 zillion dollars a year, at least he can hustle to first base."
Papelbon will miss the rest of the season. His four-game ban starts after he finishes serving a three-game suspension from Major League Baseball for throwing at an opponent's head.
Harper has indicated he would be OK with Papelbon returning to the Nationals in 2016. The reliever has an $11 million guaranteed contract for next season.
"If 'Paps' can help us win a World Series next year, that's what I need. That's what this whole clubhouse needs," Harper said on Monday. "We can't be fighting or anything like that."
??? With files from The Associated Press.