CLEARWATER, Fla. — Odubel Herrera continued last summer to live in Philadelphia for two months after his arrest in Atlantic City on domestic violence charges. Major League Baseball suspended him for the rest of last season, the Phillies removed him in January from their major-league roster, and a baseball career became endangered.
He was arrested last May at the Golden Nugget Casino after Herrera, according to a police report, left “hand print markings” on his 20-year-old girlfriend’s neck and “small scratches” on her arms in what police termed a “domestic violence physical dispute.”
Herrera was charged with simple assault and knowingly causing bodily injury. Both charges were dismissed in July when his girlfriend declined to proceed with the case. And now he is in Clearwater, dressing in the minor-league clubhouse and training in the back of the team’s complex, away from the major-league life he enjoyed the last five springs.
The Phillies will decide next month if Herrera will begin the season in the minor leagues. Or they could opt to release him and move on. The Phillies said his performance this spring will dictate that. The only thing guaranteed about Herrera’s career is that the Phillies still owe him the remainder of a $30.5 million contract they signed him to after the 2016 season.
The 28-year-old Herrera, speaking publicly Tuesday for the first time since his arrest, said he was sorry for what happened last May, learned a lesson, and “wants to turn the page and keep going with life.” And it was those two months he spent in Philadelphia last summer that Herrera said provided him the perspective to learn from what happened inside an Atlantic City hotel room.
He and his girlfriend attended counseling sessions in Center City three times a week over those two months. Those sessions, Herrera said, helped him improve himself.
“What I can tell you about that night is that I’m very sorry,” Herrera said. “We have had a very long relationship. Like every couple, sometimes you argue. Sometimes there are problems. But we’ve grown as a couple. We have a healthy relationship. We’ve learned from that.”
The Phillies, under baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, were not permitted to further punish Herrera after MLB suspended him for the final 85 games of 2019. They cited baseball reasons for removing him before the season from the 40-man roster and said his on-field performance this spring will determine his future in the organization.
But it can be expected that Herrera’s demeanor this spring and ability to prove that he bettered himself during his absence will carry as much weight as how he plays on the back fields of the Carpenter Complex.
“There’s no one who regrets this more than me. It’s one of those things that I learned from and tried to get better from,” Herrera said.
Major League Baseball mandated that Herrera donate money to the Pa. Coalition Against Domestic Violence, but a Phillies spokeswoman said Herrera pledged to donate for two additional years. The incident at the Golden Nugget, Herrera said, was the lowest point in his relationship with his girlfriend, but it “is not my regular behavior.” He said he takes “full responsibility” for what happened. And he’ll work this spring to show the Phillies that he’s changed since they saw him last.
“I’m training hard. I’m a man of faith, so if the Phillies give me a second chance, I would take advantage of that and play my hardest,” Herrera said. “... It’s something we don’t want to go through again.”