5-game suspension for Cubs prospect Jorge Soler in bat incident
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org April 11, 2013 1:04PM
Top prospect Jorge Soler laughs as the Chicago Cubs get ready for the 2013 season during their spring training at Fitch park in Mesa, AZ on Monday, February 18, 2013. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
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Updated: April 11, 2013 4:50PM
Cubs players and field staff were surprised and disappointed by reports that the “quiet” and “poised” Jorge Soler they remembered from spring training could be the guy in Daytona, Fla., Wednesday night who grabbed a bat and charged the opponent’s dugout following a bench-clearing incident.
“When somebody told me that [Thursday morning], I said I don’t believe it,” said shortstop Starlin Castro, who lockered next to Soler during spring training. “What he showed me in spring training, he’s not that guy.”
Soler, one of the Cubs’ most visible and highly ranked prospects, was ejected from the Daytona Cubs game, and was suspended five games by the Class A Florida State League today. He was also hit with an undisclosed fine.
He was in the center of the incident that led to the benches clearing, according to reports, after a confrontation with second baseman Carlos Alonso after trying to break up a double play in the seventh inning.
Cubs officials gathered information Thursday morning and addressed the issue before Thursday’s game at Wrigley Field.
“We condemn the action, we support the player,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said.
Epstein said there’s nothing in his past to indicate action like this and said he’s very remorseful.
“This is a great kid who’s already overcome a lot in his life,” Epstein said, “and someone that we’re not worried about at all.”
Epstein said the Cubs are willing to accept the penalty and don’t anticipate adding to it.
“It was kind of a nightmare,” Daytona manager Dave Keller told the Daytona Beach News-Journal after the 14-9 loss to Clearwater. “I think that he was frustrated by some things, and there was some emotional things he was fighting with. Why he did that, I don’t know.”
Soler, a 21-year-old Cuban defector who signed a nine-year, $30-million contract with the Cubs last summer, did not swing the bat, according to the newspaper, with teammates and at least one coach pulling him back to his own dugout before the incident had a chance to escalate.
Soler was not known to have a reputation as a volatile player. He is a veteran of international tournament play and had not played in organized league baseball for nearly two years before the Cubs signed him, as he waited for residency status and free agent eligibility.
Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who was a $10-million former Notre Dame football star when he began playing Class A ball seven years ago, said higher profile players can get targeted other players.
“Without a doubt,” Samardzija said. “I felt like even when I was down there playing, they knew who I was from playing football and they wanted to prove I shouldn’t be on the baseball field. So there’s definitely a chip on the shoulder of others guys that are trying to prove themselves, and maybe this is their fourth year in the minor leagues.”
It’s unclear that Alonso may have said to Soler to set him off.
“You need to understand,” Samardzija said, “that you’re going to get everybody’s best and you’re also going to get everybody’s worst. And you need to learn how to deal with both.”
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he’s seen incidents like Wednesday night during his playing and managing career in the minors, but still was surprised to hear Soler became involved in one after having him for more than a month in big-league spring training camp.
“All the time in spring training he seemed like a very poised young man that came to play every day,” Sveum said. “A very quiet, very unassuming guy. But you could tell he had a lot of poise and was very mature for his age.”