Rizzo: Nationals don’t plan for Castro to return to team

General manager Mike Rizzo spoke out forcefully against Starlin Castro and the recent domestic violence allegation made against the Nationals third baseman, accepting responsibility for signing him despite a previous allegation of sexual assault and saying he does not expect Castro to return to play for his team.

“I am not planning on having Starlin Castro back,” Rizzo said this afternoon outside the dugout at Nationals Park, taking questions from beat reporters for the first time since April.

Castro was placed on administrative leave by Major League Baseball on Friday after the league was made aware of the allegation. The collective bargaining agreement allows for him to remain there for up to seven days while an investigation takes place, though similar investigations involving players and executives from other clubs typically have taken much longer than that, and the person involved typically isn’t reinstated until a final decision is made.

Castro-HR-Swing-Blue-Sidebar.jpgWhether MLB completes the Castro investigation before season’s end is unknown, but the way Rizzo spoke today, the Nationals don’t expect the 31-year-old to return.

Rizzo said he first learned of the allegation against Castro on Thursday night, when the club was informed he was going to be placed on administrative leave.

“It was the first that I had heard about this situation, yes, and I was surprised,” he said. “I was angered by it. I was pissed off by it. And it’s something that cannot happen. It should not happen. It will not happen with the Nationals. Otherwise, we’ll fix it.”

Echoing remarks manager Davey Martinez made Friday, Rizzo spoke out forcefully regarding the allegation against Castro and the issue of domestic violence in baseball and throughout society. He reiterated those thoughts in a team meeting that afternoon.

“We’ve got to do better,” he said. “We’ve got to do better at this. The whole world has to do better at this, and it’s unacceptable. It’s zero tolerance here, and I don’t care how good of a player you are. It’s zero tolerance, and we’re just not going to put up with it. It’s not something Davey Martinez or Mike Rizzo’s Washington Nationals are going to have on this team.”

The Nationals signed Castro to a two-year, $12 million contract in January 2020, expecting him to be their starting second baseman. He wound up playing only 16 games during the pandemic-shortened season before fracturing his wrist making a diving play in the field. He returned healthy this spring and was moved to third base after top prospect Carter Kieboom failed to seize the job, then got off to a rough start at the plate before finally turning it on over the last three weeks, raising his batting average to .283 and his OPS to .708 in 87 games.

Castro did leave the club for two days in mid-June to deal with what was explained to be a “family matter” at the time. Rizzo repeated today what Martinez said Friday, that Castro’s brief departure last month had nothing to do with the domestic violence allegation that came last week.

The GM also took responsibility for vetting Castro prior to signing him, knowing he had been accused of sexual assault in 2011 while playing for the Cubs, with Chicago police ultimately determining there wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge him.

“We do pride ourselves - you’ve heard me say it a million times - that you read about our guys in the sports section and not the other sections,” Rizzo said. “And this time we failed. I’m responsible for the players that I put on our roster and on the field, and we did a lot of due diligence, specifically with this player, because of his past, and because we had a lot of inside information on him because he played for some of our coaches and that type of thing. So going into it, when we signed him, I felt comfortable with it.”

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