Indians’ Francona says team didn’t cover up for Callaway

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Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona wears a face covering as he drives around on a golf cart during a spring training baseball practice Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

CLEVELAND (AP) — Responding to claims the team protected Mickey Callaway, Indians manager Terry Francona said no one in the Cleveland organization “covered up” for the former pitching coach who’s under investigation by Major League Baseball following allegations of sexual harassment.

Callaway is currently suspended as the Los Angeles Angels pitching coach, pending the MLB inquiry.

The Athletic reported Tuesday that 12 current and former Indians employees came forward in the last month to say Callaway’s actions were so obvious inside the team that “it would have been difficult for top officials to not be aware of his behavior.”

Callaway’s alleged lewd behavior while he was with the Indians from 2013-17 included sending inappropriate photos, requesting nude photos in return and making women “feel uncomfortable.”

“Nobody’s ever deliberately covered up for anybody, I can tell you that,” Francona said on a Zoom call from the team’s spring training complex in Goodyear, Arizona.

The Indians followed with a statement a few hours later.

“Our organization continues to actively cooperate with MLB on their investigation into Mickey Callaway,” it said. “It is important we honor the confidentiality and integrity of that investigation. While we don’t believe the reporting to date reflects who we are as an organization, we will not comment further on the specifics of this matter.”

“We remain committed to creating an inclusive work environment where everyone, regardless of gender, can feel safe and comfortable at all times. We will let our actions – not just our words – reflect our commitment.”

Shortly before Francona spoke to the media, his son, Nick, posted on Twitter that he had read the new story on Callaway and confronted his father. The younger Francona said the Indians “are clearly in the wrong.”

“Their behavior is unacceptable, and even worse, it’s hard to have faith in them to improve and learn when they seem more concerned about covering up wrongdoings that addressing them honestly,” Nick Francona wrote.

The 61-year-old Francona, who managed only 14 games last season because of health issues, said his son’s comments were painful.

“I love all my children unconditionally,” he said. “As you can imagine, that’s a very difficult thing to see. So to deal with it publicly is hurtful.”

According to The Athletic report, some of the employees found it difficult to believe the Indians were caught off-guard by the Callaway accusations.

“I laughed out loud when I saw the quote (in the original report) that said it was the worst-kept secret in baseball, because it was,” one unidentified former employee told The Athletic. “It was the worst-kept secret in the organization.”

Earlier, Francona, who is in his ninth season with Cleveland, was asked if he was troubled by the report.

“I have never worked in a place where I have more respect for people than here,” he said. “And I’ve been very fortunate to work for some wonderful people. I believe that in my heart. I don’t think today is the day to go into details, things like that.”

“I do hope there is a day, because I think it would be good, and I think it’s necessary,” he said.

Last month, Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said he wasn’t aware of Callaway’s behavior until he read about it in a story by the Athletic, which detailed Callaway’s pursuit of women over a five-year period with three teams.

Callaway was Cleveland’s pitching coach from 2013-17 before he was hired to manage the New York Mets.

Angels manager Joe Maddon declined to comment Tuesday on the latest report, citing the team’s ongoing investigation.

“I just can’t,” Maddon said. “There’s nothing for me to comment, add or subtract, whatever. We’ll just let this play itself out. We’ll find out where it lands, and then we’ll take it from there, but for right now, I can’t say anything.”

Callaway pitched for the Angels in 2002 and 2003 while Maddon was the team’s bench coach. Callaway was Maddon’s first major hire when he took over in Los Angeles in 2019.

California labor law typically requires a full investigation of such allegations before an employee can be fired for cause if the employee denies wrongdoing. The Angels already promoted bullpen coach Matt Wise to serve as interim pitching coach last month.

When he spoke on Feb. 4, Antonetti said he was “distraught” and “disturbed” by the allegations against Callaway. Antonetti expressed regret that none of the accusers felt they could come forward and that the team was committed to making its workplace safe.

Antonetti added that he was not aware if the Mets had reached out to the Indians before they hired Callaway in 2017.

On Monday, Mets president Sandy Alderson acknowledged the team was perhaps short-sighted in its hiring process and probably should have done a better job of vetting Callaway.

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AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Los Angeles contributed.

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