After Odubel Herrera was arrested Monday night and charged with assault involving his 20-year-old girlfriend, Major League Baseball placed the center fielder on administrative leave, and his future with the Phillies might be in doubt.
According to an Atlantic City Police report, a 911 call was placed by security officers at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino. Police arrived to find Herrera’s girlfriend with “visible signs of injury to her arms and neck that was sustained after being assaulted ... during a dispute.” She refused medical attention, and Herrera did not resist arrest, according to the report.
Herrera was charged with simple assault and released on a summons with a court date next month.
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Baseball’s joint domestic-violence policy, negotiated between the league and the players’ union in 2015, gives commissioner Rob Manfred independent authority to review such incidents. There isn’t a timeline for MLB’s investigation. Herrera, who will be paid while he’s away from the Phillies, can have his leave extended if the commissioner’s probe stretches beyond seven days.
“It may take seven days, it may take 70 days. I don’t know,” said Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, who is prohibited from discussing specifics of the case or the league investigation. “I think we have to be prepared for anything.”
Once the commissioner rules, the Phillies can “make our decision” on supplemental discipline, Klentak said. It’s worth noting, though, that punishment for domestic violence would not enable the Phillies to void Herrera’s contract. He’s in the third year of a five-year, $30-million deal, and if the Phillies decided to release him, they would have to pay the remainder of that contract, roughly $24 million.
The Phillies decided to give Herrera a long-term extension based on strong seasons in 2015 and 2016, Klentak said. But they also wagered on his character. Herrera has often come under criticism for his inconsistent play, and he admitted in spring training that there were times last season when he lost focus.
Asked whether there’s a chance that Herrera won’t play for the Phillies again, Klentak said, “That’s premature to speculate at this point. There’s not enough information about what happened.”
Klentak was in a morning meeting to prepare for next week’s amateur draft when Phillies vice president of communications Bonnie Clark called to inform him of Herrera’s arrest, which she learned about after the Atlantic City Police Department called the team.
Once MLB decided to put Herrera on leave, Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler spoke to the 27-year-old outfielder by phone, with assistance from team translator Diego Ettedgui. It was a brief conversation.
"No explanation, but he did apologize," Klentak said, though he didn't specify to whom.
Herrera’s court date is set for June 17 in Municipal Court in Atlantic City. The Phillies are scheduled to play in Washington that night.
The Phillies worked with MLB to get Herrera’s name removed from the all-star ballot, which was released Tuesday. Kapler met briefly with the team. Like Klentak, Kapler is not permitted to discuss the matter, though he was visibly bothered by the situation. His ex-wife, Lisa, was in an abusive relationship in high school in Southern California, and he began the Gabe Kapler Foundation to raise awareness for the prevention of domestic violence.
“The league and the players have negotiated a policy that club officials are not to be commenting on this situation specifically," Kapler said. However, I can say more globally that domestic violence is unacceptable all the time, every time I can speak for myself and say it’s deeply disturbing. It’s not something you want to be dealing with.”
MLB has issued several punishments under this domestic-violence policy, although suspensions have varied greatly in length.
Most recently, Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell received a 40-game ban. Other players who have been suspended for domestic violence incidents are New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman (30 games in 2016), then-Colorado Rockies infielder Jose Reyes (51 games in 2016), New York Mets reliever Jeurys Familia (15 games in 2016), former Tampa Bay Rays catcher Derek Norris (final month of the 2017 season), Boston Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright (15 games in 2018), and then-Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna (75 games last year).
The Phillies intend to use utility man Scott Kingery in center field against left-handed pitching. Against right-handers, Kapler said they plan to shift Andrew McCutchen to center field and use Nick Williams in left. Williams was recalled from triple-A Lehigh Valley to take Herrera’s roster spot, at least until the commissioner’s office completes its investigation.
“We’re going to be transparent about this,” Klentak said. “We’re not going to hide the ball. There’s no secrets. Whatever we learn, we’ll share it, and the league will help us make whatever decision we’re going to make.”