Roberto Osuna, the young star reliever for the Toronto Blue Jays, has been charged with assault, a development that has left the club reeling.
According to a news release from Toronto police, the 23-year-old was arrested and charged after an unspecified incident that unfolded early Tuesday morning.
The Blue Jays returned Sunday night from Florida after an eight-game road trip and did not have a game on Monday.
Osuna, who has been released from custody, is scheduled to appear in court at Toronto’s Old City Hall on June 18.
The Canadian Press
Major League Baseball wasted no time reacting to the news, indefinitely suspending the native of Mexico. The league has launched its own investigation into the allegations under its Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.
“MLB takes all allegations of this nature very seriously,” the league said in a statement. “We are investigating the circumstances and have placed Roberto Osuna on administrative leave in accordance with … the policy.”
The news started to spread at Rogers Centre early Tuesday afternoon as the players arrived to prepare for the start of a three-game series that night against the Seattle Mariners.
Thursday’s game was supposed to feature Osuna on a free T-shirt promotion. Instead, the club made the quick decision to go with a T-shirt featuring infielder Yangervis Solarte.
Osuna was nowhere to be found, but his jersey, with the No. 54 on the back, was still hanging from his locker along with a Blue Jays baseball cap.
While he is on leave, Osuna is forbidden from being at Rogers Centre or around the baseball team, and the club did not make him available for comment.
“Obviously, as it relates to the investigation, there’s very little we can comment on,” Toronto general manager Ross Atkins told a group of reporters on the field about two hours before the start of the game. “Hopefully, you can respect and understand that. As it relates to the allegation, to say that we don’t condone things of this nature is saying it very lightly.
“Specifically, as to our emotions and to get that type of information as an organization, it’s difficult to come up with words just to how seriously we are taking it.”
Toronto police would not divulge any more information about the assault charge when contacted. A police spokesperson would not confirm that the victim was female, but a source close to the team said it was Osuna’s girlfriend.
Osuna has been one of the team’s bright lights since bursting onto the scene and locking down the closer role in 2015, when he was still a rookie. Last season he accounted for 39 saves, the second-highest mark in the American League, and participated in his first All-Star Game.
But there was also a dark moment in June when he told the team he was not prepared to pitch in a game and was kept on the sidelines for a couple of days. He later said he was dealing with anxiety issues.
This season, however, he has played well, his nine saves ranking him among the league leaders.
Toronto manager John Gibbons said on Tuesday that he had an opportunity to speak with Osuna personally earlier in the day. He declined to divulge the nature of the conversation.
Gibbons said professional athletes cannot be sheltered when it comes to acting responsibly away from the bright lights of the playing field.
“You’re dealing with human beings regardless of walks of life,” Gibbons said. “Hopefully, there’s nothing there. I love the kid – not because of what he’s done for us on the field but because of who he is and my relationship with him over the years.
“But really, in society in general, it’s got to be a zero-tolerance policy. You’ve got to protect the vulnerable, those who can’t protect themselves. Hopefully, when it’s all said and done, he’s back with us and it’s behind him and things turn out fine.”
Atkins said he had both an emotional and physical reaction when he got the call informing him that his star pitcher had been arrested.
“In the game of baseball, you live with individuals, it’s not just coming to work every day,” he said. “You travel, you are constantly in and around one another. So you have no choice but to build bonds and relationships.
“So anytime a member of this organization is impacted or certain behaviour occurs, we’re all impacted.”
The league’s domestic-violence policy, an initiative undertaken with the MLB Players Association, was put into place in August, 2015.
Under the policy’s guidelines, the MLB can place a player on paid administrative leave for as many as seven days while it conducts its own investigation into allegations against a player.
To date, four players have been suspended under the policy since it came into effect, including 51 games handed to former Jay Jose Reyes in 2016. The criminal charges against Reyes were eventually dropped.