The Florida International baseball player taking a 56-game hitting streak into next season has been charged with rape in the Bahamas, court officials in the islands' capital said yesterday.
Garrett Wittels was accused of raping a 17-year-old tourist on Dec. 20 while on a visit to the archipelago east of Florida. The 20-year-old infielder ended last season with the second-longest hitting streak in NCAA Division I history, two behind the 58-game run by Oklahoma State's Robin Ventura in 1987.
Two of Wittels' friends also face rape charges, officials said.
Chief Magistrate Roger Gomez granted Wittels and the two others $10,000 bail at their Thursday arraignment in Nassau. The U.S. suspects were not required to enter pleas and returned to the United States.
It is unclear how, or if, the charge would affect Wittels' status with the FIU program. FIU begins its season Feb. 18 and its first three games are set to be televised while Wittels continues his chase of Ventura's record. FIU athletic director Pete Garcia declined to comment.
Magistrate Derence Rolle-Davis will begin a preliminary inquiry on April 18 to determine if there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.
Michael Wittels told the Miami Herald that his son and his friends met the two girls at a casino and they later went to a private party. The girls apparently described themselves as students at the University of Arkansas, he said.
In other baseball news:
* Righthanded reliever Takashi Saito agreed to a 1-year contract with Milwaukee. Saito, 40, was 2-3 with a 2.83 ERA in 56 appearances for Atlanta last season. He is expected to fill the setup role for closer John Axford.
* The New York Mets acquired shortstop Chin-lung Hu from the Los Angeles Dodgers for lefthander Michael Antonini. Hu, 26, batted .317 last season at Triple A Albuquerque. Antonini, 25, split last season between Double A and Triple A.
* Champagne Stakes winner and 2007 2-year-old champion War Pass died Friday at Lane's End Farm in Lexington, Ky., shortly after returning from Australia. A preliminary necropsy proved inconclusive. Trained by Nick Zito, War Pass won five of seven lifetime starts and earned $1,583,400. His career was cut short by a minor fracture in left foreleg.