Rays' Wander Franco moved to administrative leave while MLB, Dominican authorities investigate

Tampa Bay Rays' Wander Franco watches from the dugout during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Guardians Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

NEW YORK. (AP) — Wander Franco was placed on administrative leave indefinitely by Major League Baseball on Tuesday while authorities in the Dominican Republic investigate the Tampa Bay Rays' All-Star shortstop for an alleged relationship with a minor.

The 22-year-old will be paid and receive service time while on administrative leave under an agreement with the players' association that did not set a timetable for a decision on whether he will be disciplined by MLB.

“Just let the process kind of unfold,” Rays manager Kevin Cash before Tuesday night’s game against the Colorado Rockies. “Probably not worth commenting any further.”

Franco was placed on the restricted list for a week on Aug. 14 while MLB launched an investigation following social media posts suggesting he was in a relationship with a minor. The AP has not been able to verify the reported posts.

MLB said the shift to administrative leave was not disciplinary under the sport’s joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy. That leave is frequently set with a seven-day limit under the policy, but there's no such timeframe on Franco's leave and it's possible he will not return this season.

Ángel Darío Tejeda Fabal, a prosecutor in the Dominican Republic province of Peravia, said last week an investigation into Franco was open under a division specializing in minors and gender violence.

MLB is likely to wait until that investigation is concluded before deciding whether there will be any discipline, a person familiar with the probe told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because that was not announced.

Franco was held out of the Rays' lineup on Aug. 13 in what Cash said was a day off, then missed a six-game West Coast trip while on the restricted list. The Rays issued a statement Tuesday supporting the administrative leave decision.

Tampa Bay catcher Christian Bethancourt said the investigation of Franco is not a topic of discussion in the clubhouse.

“Actually we're not talking about it. Nobody is,” Bethancourt said. “We're just going with it. We've got to show up every day. We've got to play the game. We've got to win ballgames, and that's what we've been doing.”

Franco still has a locker in the Rays' clubhouse at Tropicana Field, but his presence around Tampa Bay's home ballpark is disappearing. Photos of him were taken down, including a banner in the rotunda at the center field entrance that was replaced with an image of first baseman Yandy Díaz.

MLB and the union agreed to the joint domestic violence policy in 2015.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer was on administrative leave from July 2, 2021, until the following April 29, when he was suspended for 324 games. The penalty was reduced by an arbitrator to 194 games. Bauer was accused of sexual assault, accusations he has repeatedly denied. He is now pitching in Japan.

Franco has salaries of $2 million this season and next as part of a $182 million, 11-year contract that started in 2022.

He is in his third big league season and is hitting .281 with 17 homers, 58 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 40 attempts over 112 games.

Eighteen players have been disciplined by MLB under the domestic violence policy. The latest was New York Yankees pitcher Jimmy Cordero, who agreed on July 5 to a suspension for the final 76 games of the season.

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