In a troubling turn of events on Sunday, the Rays star short stop Wander Franco was removed from the team dugout during the fifth inning. The reason appeared to be related to social media posts that had gone viral during the game.
These Instagram posts, in Spanish, alleged an intimate relationship between Franco and a 14-year old Dominican girl. The posts were from unverified accounts, and were not from the alleged victim herself.
The social media account for the alleged victim is utilizing an Instagram account registered as a “public figure” that has approx. 2,500 followers, and has changed their profile picture to text that reads (in Spanish): “It’s not revenge, it’s Newton’s Law: for every action there is a reaction.”
Late Sunday night, the Associated Press ran a story that’s been picked up by the front pages of ESPN, Fox News, and the New York Post, which included a statement from the Rays:
“During today’s game, we were made aware of the social media posts that are circulating regarding Wander Franco,” the Rays said in a statement Sunday. “We take the situation seriously and are in close contact with Major League Baseball as it conducts its due diligence.”
While the Rays have only acknowledged an investigation is ongoing, Franco appeared to deny the allegations in an Instagram Live prior to the game:
From Wander Franco’s IG Live :— Jay Recher (@jayRecher) August 14, 2023
“They say that I’m in public with a little girl, that I’m running around with a minor. People don’t know what to do with their time. They don’t know what they’re talking about. That’s why I prefer to be on my side & not get involved with anybody.” pic.twitter.com/DEtsHCrbQW
Manager Kevin Cash was interviewed after the game during his standard press huddle, and said that he was aware of the speculation and declined to comment. He stated that Franco did not start the game because he was being given the day off.
Rays Manager Kevin Cash says Wander Franco's day off was just a day off. No other reason for him not playing today. pic.twitter.com/UJfrVRknfY— David Schiele WTSP (@Deacon_Schiele) August 13, 2023
Franco had played in the previous 40 games, starting all but one of them, making his scheduled day off understandable, despite it occurring on a Franco-branded snapback hat giveaway day.
Franco was not available for interview following the game, per the Tampa Bay Times:
He was not in the clubhouse after the game. Instead, a clubhouse attendant packed his baseball gear into a team travel bag at his locker. The Rays headed to the airport immediately after the game to fly to San Francisco, where they will open a three-game series against the Giants on Monday.
Despite his gear being packed in a “travel bag” the Rays will not have Franco at least to start their road trip west this week:
Tampa Bay shortstop Wander Franco did not travel on the team plane to San Francisco, where the Rays will start a series with the Giants tomorrow, sources tell ESPN. The Rays earlier said MLB is doing “due diligence” concerning social media posts from earlier today about Franco.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 14, 2023
We will continue to follow the story, and will share new developments as they are reported.
UPDATE - 12:55 PM
The Rays have released the following statement:
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.
UPDATE - 1:19 PM
The Rays announced they will not be commenting further on the Wander Franco situation.
We support any steps taken by the league to better understand the situation. Out of respect for all parties involved, we have no further comments at this time.
UPDATE - August 16, 6:05 PM
The Associated Press has confirmed that, “Wander Franco’s alleged relationship with a minor is being handled by a division specializing in minors and gender violence in the province of Peravia.”
Ángel Darío Tejeda Fabal, a prosecutor in Peravia, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the investigation into Franco is open under The National Agency for Boys, Girls, Adolescents and Family and Gender Violence Unit. He said the probe is in its early stages and will be chaired by Judge Olga Diná Llaverías, a specialist on child abuse cases.
“This is a very delicate topic because there is a minor involved,” Fabal said. “We are working together (with Judge Llaverías).” Fabal said prosecutors are gathering evidence and testimonies but did not provide details.
UPDATE - August 17, 1:21 AM
Dominican Journalist Héctor Gómez has a source that claims “It will be very unlikely that Wander Franco will play in MLB again...”
A person very close to the investigations into the case of Wander Franco: "It will be very unlikely that Wander Franco will play in MLB again, judging by the results of the investigations that are currently being carried out, which directly commit him to the accusations against… https://t.co/Yn5CGckJgE— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) August 17, 2023
My source in this case is the same one that gave me the news when I broke the Wander Franco's contract extension with the Rays.https://t.co/qN5D7gdlIG— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) August 17, 2023