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Dominican authorities investigate Rays’ Wander Franco for an alleged relationship with a minor

By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Authorities in the Dominican Republic are investigating Tampa Bay Rays All-Star shortstop Wander Franco for an alleged relationship with a minor, according to a statement Monday from the office of the attorney general in his native country.

The Rays, meanwhile, placed the 22-year-old on the restricted list, a move that will sideline Franco for at least six games while MLB investigates social media posts involving the player.

The investigations follow reported social media posts suggesting Franco was in a relationship with a minor. The Associated Press has not been able to verify the reported posts. Asked about Franco’s alleged relationship with the minor, the media office of the attorney general in the Dominican Republic said in a statement “there are investigations regarding that matter.”

It was not immediately clear if Franco had retained an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

The Rays did not detail the nature of the social media posts but said the team and Franco “mutually agreed” he would go on the restricted list. Franco will be paid during his time on the restricted list.

MLB has launched an investigation, a person familiar with the probe told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.

Franco did not play in Sunday’s home series finale against Cleveland at Tropicana Field and did not accompany the Rays to San Francisco for the start of a six-game road trip that begins Monday night against the Giants.

“The Tampa Bay Rays and Wander Franco have mutually agreed that he will go on the Restricted List and take leave from the club for the duration of the current road trip,” the team said in a one-sentence statement.

The road trip, which includes three games against the Giants and three against the Los Angeles Angels, ends next Sunday. The Rays return home to face Colorado on Aug. 22.

“We support any steps taken by the league to better understand the situation,” the club said later Monday of the MLB investigation. “Out of respect for all parties involved, we have no further comments at this time.”

Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander addressed media on call later but kept it to baseball decisions, saying, “Our comments on Wander are going to stand for what we have to say.”

Franco is hitting .281 with 17 homers and 58 RBIs this season. He had played in 40 consecutive games before taking Sunday off, hitting .411 (23 for 56) with six homers and 11 RBIs over his past 11 games.

One of Tampa Bay’s top prospects, 22-year-old Osleivis Basabe, started Sunday at shortstop in his major league debut and was in the lineup again for Monday’s series opener in San Francisco.

Franco, who was on a seven-game hitting streak in which he was batting .517 with three homers and seven RBIs, sat on the bench in the Rays’ dugout during a portion of Sunday’s game. He left in the fifth inning and was not in the clubhouse following a 9-2 loss to the Guardians.

A day later, manager Kevin Cash declined to discuss the situation in specifics but said he remained confident in his club’s ability to focus on baseball.

“It’s a good group, a good balance of young players that bring a lot of energy, we’ve got some veterans that have really done a nice job over the course of the season withstanding a long season and the stuff that goes into a five-month season,” Cash said. “I am confident in that. We’ve been playing pretty good baseball, let’s see if we can continue.”

After Sunday’s game, Cash was asked whether there was any issue with Franco not playing other than a regular day off. Cash replied: “No.”

“I’m aware of the speculation, and I’m not going to comment any further on that,” Cash said. “The day off was because (it was) a day off.”

Franco was benched for two games in late June for how he has responded to frustrating situations and — in Cash’s words at the time — not always being the best teammate.

The budget-conscious Rays signed Franco to an $182 million, 11-year contract in November 2021, a deal with a team option for 2033 that could be worth $223 million.

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AP Baseball Writers Ronald Blum in New York and Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report. Freelancer Martín Adames in Santo Domingo also contributed.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB

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