Rays’ Wander Franco out of lineup as MLB probes ‘social media posts’ involving star player

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Tampa Bay Rays star shortstop Wander Franco was out of the starting lineup on Sunday as Major League Baseball launched an investigation into “social media posts” involving the 22-year-old.

After the Rays lost to the Cleveland Guardians, 9-2, Tampa Bay released a statement.

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Wander Franco watches from the dugout

Tampa Bay Rays’ Wander Franco watches from the dugout during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Guardians, Aug. 13, 2023, in St. Petersburg, Florida. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

“During today’s game, we were made aware of the social media posts that are circulating regarding Wander Franco,” the statement reads. “We take the situation seriously and are in close contact with Major League Baseball as it conducts its due diligence.”

The Rays didn’t detail the nature of the social media posts.

Franco was in the team’s dugout to start the game but left in the fifth inning. He was the key component of the organization’s promotion on Sunday – it was Wander Franco Snapback Hat Day and fans 14 and under could receive one when they walked through the gates into Tropicana Field.

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash was asked whether there was any issue that Franco wouldn’t play other than having a scheduled day off. He said, “No.”

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Wander Franco vs Guardians

Tampa Bay Rays’ Wander Franco, center right, celebrates with third-base coach Brady Williams after hitting a walk-off home run against the Cleveland Guardians, Aug. 11, 2023, in St. Petersburg, Florida. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)

“I’m aware of the speculation, and I’m not going to comment any further on that,” Cash said. “The day off was because [it was] a day off.”

Franco was an All-Star for the first time this season. He is hitting .281 with 17 home runs and 58 RBI. He signed an 11-year, $182 million contract extension in November 2021. A team option in 2033 could make the deal worth $233 million when it’s over.

He was taken out of the lineup for a few games in June for not being the best teammate at times.

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Wander Franco vs Yankees

Tampa Bay Rays’ Wander Franco gestures as he runs the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the New York Yankees, Aug. 2, 2023, in New York City. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Tampa Bay got off to a very hot start, winning their first 13 games to start the season. The Rays are now 71-49 and have the playoffs in sight.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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