Diamondbacks react to Saalfrank’s gambling suspension: ‘He’s heartbroken’

Jun 4, 2024, 7:10 PM

Manager Torey Lovullo...

Manager Torey Lovullo #17 of the Arizona Diamondbacks removes Andrew Saalfrank #57 from the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the sixth inning in Game Two of the Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 09, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo heard the hammer was coming down on one of his players Monday night, and he said everyone from the clubhouse to the training room was talking about it on Tuesday.

Reliever Andrew Saalfrank, who was most recently pitching for Triple-A Reno, received a one-year suspension for betting on baseball in 2021 and 2022. At the time, he was with Low-A Visalia recovering from Tommy John Surgery.

Saalfrank did not bet on his assigned team but made 28 MLB bets.

On Tuesday, Lovullo and several Diamondbacks players shared disappointment by Saalfrank’s decision and suspension but also empathy for a teammate.

“He’s heartbroken, of course,” pitcher Ryan Thompson told Arizona Sports after speaking to Saalfrank. “This is probably something that’s hard for people to understand, but that year he had a rough time in his life, and I think we can relate to that. You’re going through things and you don’t always make the best decisions. I’ve been there a lot of times in my life, so I have a ton of empathy for Andrew. He just feels really bad for not being available for the team this year. He cares so much about our team.”

“It’s a disappointing day for Andrew, for his teammates and for the organization,” closer Paul Sewald told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo. “That’s not who (Saalfrank) is. That kind of surprised me when I found out. It just is disappointing. We’re frustrated we’re not going to have him this year, personally. But when you think about it, on his perspective, he made a mistake and he owned up to his mistake. … He will come back from this.”

“Just thinking about him and hope he’s in a good spot mentally,” first baseman Christian Walker said in a media scrum.

Saalfrank played a key role for the D-backs down the stretch last season and in October after getting called up for the first time. He has spent most of this season in Triple-A.

MLB players alert of the gambling rules

Players cannot bet on baseball or they face a year-long ban. Players betting on games involving their own teams will get them permanently banned. The league banned San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano for that reason on Tuesday.

Lovullo said the gambling rules are clearly outlined each spring training. Thompson described the talks as educational about the rules, usually brought up among other topics in a meeting. He said the rules can catch some minor leaguers off guard.

“I remember being in the minor leagues, maybe in Single-A, hearing that message for the first time and being like, ‘What?'” Thompson said. “We all know the Pete Rose thing, the Black Sox. You never throw a game, you never bet on the game you’re playing and if you’re in the big leagues, you can’t bet on a game. Then you hear it for the first time it’s like, ‘Wait, even though I’m not even in major leagues and I have nothing to do with the game?'”

Lovullo said he had not spoken to Saalfrank as of Tuesday afternoon, but general manager Mike Hazen had.

“We have to protect the integrity of this game. Andrew knew that, he understood that and he made a really bad decision,” Lovullo said.

“What I do know is about the human being. I know Andrew is remorseful. … He’s going to be suspended for one entire year away from his baseball team. That’s painful for him and painful for us. All we can do is continue to encourage him to do the right thing, learn from this. We’ll see him again.”

MLB gambling headlines

There has been a greater spotlight on gambling in baseball this year. Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter Ippei Mizuhara pleaded guilty to fraud charges for stealing money from the game’s biggest star to pay gambling debts — there has not been evidence presented to suggest Ohtani placed bets.

David Fletcher, a teammate of Ohtani with the Angels, is also being investigated. MLB announced one-year gambling suspensions for four players on Tuesday.

“It needs to be monitored … the system worked,” Lovullo said.

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