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Rays Travel Without Wander Franco While MLB Investigates Allegations Of Inappropriate Relationship [Update]

Wander Franco #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays runs to first base during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies
Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Wander Franco will be away from the team while MLB investigates allegations made through social media that he had a relationship with a minor.

Franco did not play in Sunday's game against the Guardians. In his place, Osleivis Basabe made his major-league debut at shortstop. According to the Associated Press, Basabe learned of his call-up while in the middle of his Triple-A game Saturday night. Franco was in the dugout at the start of Sunday's game, but left during the fifth inning. Manager Kevin Cash said that it was a scheduled day off for Franco. The Rays said in a statement that they learned of the social media posts during the game and were in contact with MLB.

"I'm aware of the speculation," Cash said when asked about Franco's absence and early departure. "I'm not gonna comment any further on that, but the day off was because—the day off." The Rays' promotional giveaway for the game was a Wander Franco snapback hat for fans 14 years old and under.

Jeff Passan of ESPN reported late Sunday night that Franco would not be on the Rays' flight to San Francisco for their upcoming three-game series against the Giants. The team will be on the road until Aug. 22.

The allegations against Franco seem to have originated from a couple of Instagram accounts over the weekend. One account with the handle @elrealimperiodecasimira__2 shared screenshots of Franco kissing a girl on the cheek, with her face obscured, and said the girl was 14 years old, though the origin of that claim is unclear. There was also a text message, posted by @kingkongfabuloso, referencing a girl who could cause problems for someone and a team rule about not talking to minors, but the sender of the text message is not identified, and no further context is provided in the post.

The basis for this seems to be an Instagram post from someone named Natalia, accusing Franco of being a pedophile. The post calls the Rays shortstop a narcissist who associates with minors, and the message concludes with something to the effect of "This is the last girl you are going to mock, you know what it is."

With the lack of sourcing and scattered information in these posts, it's difficult to know what to make of this. Many of the articles covering the allegations don't go any further than saying that MLB's investigation of Franco involves "social media posts." The only certainty right now is that the Rays and MLB learned enough to decide that Franco shouldn't be on the field in any capacity, and his return won't be considered until there's clarity on what happened.

Update (1:02 p.m.): Franco has officially been placed on the restricted list, and MLB has opened an investigation.

Update (Aug. 15): Authorities in the Dominican Republic have opened an investigation, according to the country's office of the attorney general.

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