MLB players union looks into Phils' draft controversy

MLB players union looks into Phils' draft controversy

The Phillies' new broadcast team recaps the club's loss

February 26, 2014, 4:00 pm
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Former slugging first baseman Tony Clark took over as executive director of the MLBPA when Michael Weiner passed away last November. (AP)

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Major League Baseball Players Association is looking into the recent controversy between the Phillies and one of the team’s recent draft picks.

“We are paying attention,” Tony Clark, the executive director of the union, said during a chat with reporters after his visit with Phillies players Wednesday.

“I don’t have very much information at this point. We are inquiring to get more.”

The controversy stems from the Phillies’ drafting of Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler in the fifth round last June.

According to sources, the Phillies believed they had a handshake agreement with Wetzler. However, Wetzler decided to return to college for his senior year. Someone in the Phillies' organization subsequently reported Wetzler to the NCAA for using an agent during negotiations. Drafted players can get advice from “advisers” but they are prohibited from having official representation.

The NCAA suspended Wetzler for 20 percent of his season. He can’t pitch until March 2.

The Phillies have taken a lot of heat for reporting Wetzler for breaking a rule that is seldom enforced.

Though Wetzler is an amateur, the union has interest in his case.

“The interest is the same we would have in the draft in general,” Clark said. “These guys are connected to our institution. We have some input to the rules and the dynamics (of the draft) and that’s why anything related to it we have a concern about it or a commitment to pay attention to it.

“To that extent, we are gathering information as we speak. Yes, we are concerned. Based on what we find out will determine what, if anything, lends itself to further discussion, but we are concerned enough to be inquiring.”

Much of Clark’s visit with Phillies players Wednesday was spent covering the use of instant replay by umpires and new rules on home-plate collisions.

Clark reminded players that both systems are experimental for the 2014 season and changes can be made if concerns are raised.