ST. PETERSBURG — There were some new faces in the clubhouse prior to Monday’s workout as the Rays brought up a few players from Triple A to lend a hand and provide potential depth during the playoffs.
As a result, there was one less sign of a once-familiar face, as the Rays cleaned out Wander Franco’s locker and assigned it to catcher Francisco Mejia.
The Rays were quick to remove signage, photos and merchandise featuring Franco from Tropicana Field in mid-August after he was placed on the restricted list by mutual agreement and then administrative leave by Major League Baseball as multiple investigations continued into allegations of inappropriate relationships with one or more minors.
But Franco’s locker, with a handful of gloves on the top shelf, and an adjacent rack holding dozens of pairs of his cleats, had remained in place.
Team officials made clear that the decision to reassign Franco’s locker was not an indication of any developments or pending resolution in his case but purely logistical as they needed space for the additional players.
The MLB investigation, and another by authorities in Franco’s native Dominican Republic, remain ongoing, with no timetable for resolution. MLB is likely waiting for the Dominican investigation to be complete and nothing is expected until at least after the end of the postseason, which could run into early November.
Juan Arturo Recio, an ESPN editor based in the Dominican Republic, said the case there “remains exactly the same as it was a month ago” and that “information from the prosecutor’s office is minimal.” At least two complaints have been filed there about Franco, and Recio said interviews are being conducted with potential witnesses.
Though Franco, 22, was one of the Rays’ most productive players before being taken off the field — hitting .281 with 17 homers, 58 RBIs, an .819 OPS and a 5.5 WAR rating (per baseball-reference.com) that is still fifth-best in the American League — there has been little conversation about the All-Star shortstop around the clubhouse, at least during media access times.
Team officials said at the time Franco was placed on leave they would have no further comment as the investigations continued. The only recent question to manager Kevin Cash came on Sept. 20, when he was asked by the Associated Press if the team was planning for the playoffs without Franco being available. Cash replied, “Yeah.”
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
The Rays have gone 28-15 since Franco last played, starting six other players at shortstop, and finished the regular season 99-63, the second-most wins in franchise history.
Franco technically was included in their postseason roster pool since he was on administrative leave but not eligible to play.
Franco has maintained a low profile on social media, which he used frequently while still active, and there have been no posts of anyone seeing him in public. Any workouts he is doing are not at team facilities.
Jay Reisinger, Franco’s attorney, declined to comment on Monday.
Franco was paid the remainder of his $2 million salary for the season while on leave. He just completed the second year of a team-record contract that guarantees him $182 million over 11 years and could be worth up to $233 million over 12.
Information from Times staff writer Juan-Carlos Chavez was used in this report.
• • •
Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.