Mets C Mike Piazza and Dodgers P Guillermo Mota were suspended for five games each and fined yesterday for their roles in a bench-clearing brawl last week during an exhibition game.

The suspensions will start on Opening Day unless they are appealed. Piazza was fined $3,000 and Mota was docked $1,500, and Mets OF Jeromy Burnitz was fined $500 by baseball disciplinarian Bob Watson.

Piazza and Mota got into trouble Wednesday night in Port St. Lucie, Fla., after Piazza was hit by a pitch. The problems continued when Piazza went into the Dodgers' clubhouse looking for Mota, who had already left.

Piazza and Mota have a bad history between them -- last year in spring training, Piazza was fined $3,000 by Watson for grabbing Mota by the shirt after being hit by a pitch.

* CARDINALS: After another successful batting practice session, closer Jason Isringhausen could make his spring training debut this week, putting him on track to be ready by Opening Day.

"I would say I'm optimistic about that," pitching coach Dave Duncan said.

Isringhausen, recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, threw 25 pitches, his second time throwing to hitters this spring. . . .

No matter how wild LHP Rick Ankiel might be, St. Louis will give him a chance.

Even though he shows signs of the control problems that derailed his promising career the past two years, the team figures to find some role for him on their pitching staff.

Ankiel, an 11-game winner as a 20-year-old rookie in 2000, will probably start off as a specialist in the bullpen.

"You think a left-hander is really going to enjoy hitting against him?" Manager Tony La Russa said, adding that "if he's really sharp he can pitch to the next guy, too."

Ankiel has made five relief appearances this spring, with an ERA of 9.00, allowing six runs in six innings with seven walks and seven strikeouts.

* TUG MCGRAW: Tug McGraw is undergoing neurological evaluation at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and is scheduled to have surgery early this week.

In a statement released by the hospital through the Phillies, physician Steven Brem said evidence of a malignant brain tumor is inconclusive. Brem is the program leader of Moffitt's neuro-oncology program and an expert in brain mapping and neuronavigation.

Two sources close to the former star pitcher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, previously said that doctors at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater diagnosed a malignant brain tumor after McGraw was hospitalized on Wednesday.

McGraw, 58, has been a special spring training instructor for the Phillies the last two seasons.

McGraw helped the Phillies and New York Mets win World Series during his 19 seasons in the major leagues. The left-hander went 96-92 with a 3.14 ERA and 180 saves.

* MLB: The commissioner's office is discussing a plan to move regular season games to Europe in July 2004.

Italy, France, the Netherlands and England are among the candidates, according to Paul Archey, a senior vice president of Major League Baseball International.

MLB is considering having the Yankees and Hideki Matsui play their 2004 opener in Japan, with Tampa Bay, Toronto and Baltimore among the possibilities for the opponent.

* RANGERS: SS Alex Rodriguez doesn't expect to be fully recovered from a neck injury when the season starts -- but he does plan to be in the lineup.

He rejoined his teammates yesterday after missing five days of spring training because of a herniated disk.

"I'm doing double treatments," Rodriguez said. "I'm expecting it to take three weeks to get back to full strength. The doctor says I'm basically in good shape."

Rodriguez led the major leagues with 57 home runs, 142 RBI and 389 total bases in 2002.

* MARLINS: Florida RHP A.J. Burnett will be examined by physician James Andrews in Birmingham on Wednesday after leaving his last spring start with tightness in his forearm.

Burnett said he believes the visit is just a precaution. Marlins doctors have not detected any problem with the elbow or the ligaments.

* DEVIL RAYS: Tampa Bay agreed to a minor league contract with RHP Rob Bell. Bell, 26, was released by the Rangers last week. He has appeared in 70 games with the Rangers and Reds and has a 16-21 record with a 5.95 ERA.

Mets' Mike Piazza awaits ball, Dodgers' Todd Hundley. Piazza was suspended for five games, fined $3,000 for his role in brawl last week.