Rays bench Wander Franco for not ‘being the best teammate’

The star shortstop won’t play until Saturday at the earliest due to “multiple” examples of failing to handle his frustrations properly, manager Kevin Cash says.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco communicates with teammates in the dugout during a pitching change in Tuesday's game against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco communicates with teammates in the dugout during a pitching change in Tuesday's game against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published June 22, 2023|Updated June 23, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG — Wander Franco will be held out of the Rays’ lineup for at least two games as a result of how he handles his frustrations and his resulting actions toward his teammates.

Manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday’s game that Franco, 22, would be out of the lineup that night and won’t play again Friday due to the culmination of several issues over the course of the season. He could return as soon as Saturday.

Cash declined to be specific. There is not believed to be one incident that led the team to take such an extreme and public action, but rather a series. Those include:

• Several verbal altercations with teammates, including one with Randy Arozarena May 23 in the dugout.

• Not hustling on the bases or after balls in the field, most recently after an errant throw Sunday in San Diego.

• Being overly emotional in reacting to unsuccessful at-bats, such as slamming bats and throwing equipment in front of — and at times endangering — teammates, as he did after making an out Wednesday.

“Wander is a really good kid, really good person,” Cash said. “He’s a young player that is learning and dealing with the challenges of being a major-league player and some of the frustrations that come with it.

“Over the course of this season, there’s been probably multiple times that the way he has handled his frustrations have not been the way that we ask our players to uphold being the best teammate.”

The Rays considered taking this action earlier in the season but decided to wait.

That they made the disciplinary action public was somewhat unusual, as they could have said Franco had a slight injury or was ill and asked to stay home. Instead, they shared the news with the other players in a brief closed-door meeting before batting practice Thursday and Cash announced it at the start of his pregame media session.

It would seem to be a clear indication they felt the situation warranted it. It could be, at least in part, to make clear to other players that no one — not even a budding superstar with a $182 million guaranteed contract — is treated differently.

“There are numerous sensitivities associated with this being handled publicly,” baseball operations president Erik Neander said. “But greater accountability was required to respect our clubhouse while continuing to support Wander.”

The Rays will work with Franco to deal with his frustrations and reactions, Cash said. He did not say how.

“We’re going to continue to support Wander as he works through this,” Cash said.”I’m personally going to, this organization will, the staff will. We know that he’s a really good kid and look forward to having him back.”

First baseman Yandy Diaz said he hopes Franco learns from the situation.

“He’s a young player,” Diaz said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “It even happens to older guys. It’s part of the game. I hope that when he comes back it will kind of be something that’s left in the past.”

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Franco was at Tropicana Field early Thursday afternoon but left before the clubhouse was opened to the media. He will continue to be paid while out of the lineup.

Cash rarely disciplines players publicly, typically preferring to handle matters in-house. Perhaps the only exception came in his second season, when he pulled outfielder Steven Souza Jr. from a 2016 game for jogging to first base after hitting a routine fly ball that dropped between Angels outfielders.

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