Braves shortstop Rafael Furcal was arrested on drunken driving charges Friday, his second DUI arrest in four years and a potential distraction to a team trying to wrap up its 13th straight division title.
Furcal didn’t start Friday night’s game against Montreal, though the team planned no immediate disciplinary action. Manager Bobby Cox said his leadoff hitter could be back in the lineup Saturday.
“The embarrassment that I’m sure Raffy is suffering is felt by us all,” general manager John Schuerholz said. “We’re sorry it happened. It’s behind us now. Hopefully we can go on to battle for the division title.”
Furcal, who was charged with driving under the influence, speeding and reckless driving, arrived at Turner Field about 1½ hours before the game. He had spent much of the day in two separate Atlanta area jails.
“I’m OK,” he said as he walked into the ballpark. “It’s crazy.”
Furcal was taken to the city jail after being arrested before dawn on Interstate 85, according to a police report. He was clocked at 88 mph in a 55 mph zone.
Furcal paid a $3,200 bond in cash, but he immediately was transferred to the suburban Cobb County jail for a probation violation stemming from his June 2000 arrest on similar charges. An Oct. 8 court hearing was set in that case — which could be while the Braves are involved in the playoffs.
A $5,000 bond was posted Friday afternoon so Furcal could be released from the county jail.
After being pulled over, Furcal said he drank two beers that night and pleaded, “I play for the Braves. Can you give me a chance?” the arresting officer wrote in the report.
After Furcal failed a field sobriety test, police say he again asked the officer for a break. “I’ve got one (DUI conviction) already,” the officer wrote in the report.
When tested later, Furcal registered a blood alcohol level of 0.127, above the legal Georgia limit of 0.08.
Furcal, the 2000 National League rookie of the year, is batting .287 with 12 homers, 53 RBIs and 24 stolen bases this season. He had two hits and two stolen bases in the Braves’ 9-4 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday night; he was arrested about five hours later.
After meeting with Schuerholz and Cox, Furcal was in uniform for Friday’s game.
Schuerholz said the team would take no disciplinary action against Furcal until the case was settled in the courts. The player faces a potential sentence of 90 days to 12 months in jail, though most of it could be served on probation.
According to Georgia law, anyone convicted twice of DUI within five years must spend at least 72 hours in jail, perform a minimum of 30 days’ community service and complete a course on the dangers of alcohol abuse. Also, the judge has the discretion to suspend an offender’s driving license.
“I’m sure he’s disappointed, as we all are, that this circumstance developed again,” Schuerholz said. “Anytime someone in you family has a problem that occurs on multiple occasions, it’s frustrating. We’ll do all we can to help him get to the bottom of it.”
Schuerholz said the team could bring in private experts to determine whether Furcal has an alcohol problem.
His teammates expressed shock that he was facing another drunken driving charge.
“He’s a really good kid,” third baseman Chipper Jones said. “I hope at the very least he learns from this, gets better and puts this behind him as quickly as possible.”
Furcal, 26, already is on probation for a drunken driving conviction stemming from his 2000 arrest in Cobb County. Authorities said he violated the terms of his probation with his arrest Friday.
At the time of his first arrest, Furcal also was charged with underage drinking since the Braves listed his age as 19. That charge was dropped when the investigation revealed that he was actually three years older.
Furcal’s one-year probation was set to expire Oct. 29, said Cobb County Solicitor General Barry Morgan. Furcal was previously sentenced to a year on probation, a $500 fine and 40 hours of community service. His probation was delayed until last year because of court appeals, Morgan said.
Schuerholz said he didn’t think the case would affect the team’s performance. The Braves had a seven-game lead in the NL East before Friday’s game against the Expos.
“This is unnecessary distraction, and we don’t need distractions like this,” he said. “But we’ll deal with it. We’ve shown they can circle the wagons with other issues. I’m sure we’ll circle the wagons on this.”
Orioles' Julio suspended four games
Orioles pitcher Jorge Julio received a four-game suspension from Major League Baseball on Friday for throwing a pitch that nearly hit Minnesota’s Augie Ojeda in the head.
Julio, who has 21 saves for Baltimore this season, was also fined $1,000.
Julio has appealed the suspension and fine, saying that he did not throw at Ojeda in Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss to the Twins.
“I never try to hit this guy in the face, in the head, whatever,” the Orioles closer said Friday. “I’m appealing because the (accusation) is not true.”
Julio gave up a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the ninth inning on Tuesday to Michael Cuddyer, then threw a high inside pitch that almost beaned Ojeda. Plate umpire Ron Kulpa promptly ejected the right-hander.
“I wasn’t mad about the home run,” Julio said.
“I called for a fastball. I don’t know his intentions,” Orioles catcher Javy Lopez said. “This team we have, nobody has done anything like this all year, and we’ve had plenty of chances to do it. If he did throw at him, that would really surprise me. One thing I do know: If he hit him with a pitch, it would have killed him.”
“Obviously there was some frustration there, but don’t think he was throwing at him,” Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said. “I haven’t seen that from Jorge in the past.”
Beattie discussed the decision with Bob Watson, vice president of on-field operations for Major League Baseball, who said the suspension was set for four games because Julio allegedly threw “in the head area.” Watson talked to Kulpa and watched the play on tape before deciding.
“Maybe the appeal will enable Jorge to give his side,” Beattie said.
“I just felt he was frustrated and tried to throw as hard as he could,” Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said.
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