Ex-Astro apologizes for cheating scandal

The Associated Press

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Marwin Gonzalez became the first batter from the 2017 Houston Astros team that won the World Series to publicly apologize for his role in the sign-stealing scandal, expressing regret Tuesday after reporting to spring training with the Minnesota Twins.

“I’m remorseful for everything that happened in 2017, for everything that we did as a group, and for the players that were affected directly by us by doing this and some other things,” Gonzalez said. He later added: “I wish that we could take it back, but there’s nothing we can do now.”

Major League Baseball’s investigation into the allegation first made publicly by former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers resulted in one-season suspensions for manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, a $5 million fine and the loss of Houston’s first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021. Hinch and Luhnow were fired by the Astros, and Boston manager Alex Cora and New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran also lost their jobs for their involvement in the sign-sealing system for the Astros, Cora was bench coach and Beltran was a player on the 2017 team.

Former Astros pitcher Charlie Morton, now with the Tampa Bay Rays, said Saturday he regretted not making an effort to stop the sign-stealing at the time. The current Astros have mostly avoided commenting since the results were released from MLB’s probe into the elaborate method they used to try to tip off teammates as to what type of pitch was coming.

Gonzalez, a multi-positional player starting his second season of a $21 million, two-year contract with the Twins, had a career year in 2017 with the Astros. He hit .303 with 23 home runs and 90 RBIs in 134 games, with an OPS (.907) that was 148 points better than any other season of his eight-year career.

“I can’t control how people think of me. I can control how hard I work, and that’s the way that I prepare for this season,” Gonzalez said at Minnesota’s training facility in Fort Myers, Florida.

As for whether the Astros would have won the title without the assistance of the sign-stealing system, featuring outfield video cameras and trash can banging?

“You’re never going to know. That was a great team. Great guys, too. Beside everything that happened, I know for a fact that they’re great guys, but it’s hard to answer that question,” Gonzalez said.

The Twins have two new pitchers, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda, who were on the Los Angeles Dodgers team that lost to the Astros in the 2017 World Series. Gonzalez said he planned to speak to them but downplayed the lasting effect of his connection to the scandal.

“I’m sure we’re going to have a great relationship,” Gonzalez said.

Red Sox hire manager

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It took Ron Roenicke almost five years to get another chance as a major league manager.

He’ll need to wait at least until next week for “permanency.”

The Red Sox made Roenicke their interim manager Tuesday, promoting the former Brewers skipper to replace Alex Cora on the day Boston’s pitchers and catchers reported for the start of spring training.

Although there is no expiration date on Roenicke’s tenure, the interim tag will stay until Major League Baseball completes its investigation into whether the Red Sox engaged in illegal sign-stealing during their 2018 World Series championship season. If the probe clears Roenicke, who has denied being part of any rules violations, he is expected to stay.

“We felt that naming Ron our interim manager was the best way to respect the investigation that’s ongoing into our 2018 club. But we feel very strongly about Ron’s ability to lead this group and how well-suited he is for this task,” Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom said in a news conference on the eve of the team’s first formal workout.

“We have no reason to think that there is anything that would cause an adverse result for Ron in this investigation,” Bloom said. “We’re going to respect the ongoing investigation and we’ll address permanency once it’s complete.”

Just one year after winning the World Series in his first season in Boston, Cora was let go when Commissioner Rob Manfred named him as a ringleader behind the Astros’ 2017 illegal sign-stealing. The Red Sox have maintained that there was no similar scheme after Cora took over in Boston the next year.

Manfred said last week that he hoped to have the Red Sox investigation completed before the start of spring training. But a person with knowledge of the probe said Tuesday the investigation will continue at least into next week. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because there was no formal announcement.

Red Sox pitchers and catchers reported Tuesday and have their first workout Wednesday. Rather than open spring training without a manager, the team gave the job to Roenicke — for now.

General manager Brian O’Halloran said the team heard from people inside and outside the organization who spoke highly of Roenicke.

“I know you did a lot of background check on me,” Roenicke said. “I’m glad it turned out well.”

Roenicke, 63, takes over a team that is dealing with the fallout not only from the cheating investigation but also the salary dump of onetime AL MVP Mookie Betts and Cy Young winner David Price.

“You don’t replace Mookie Betts, who is one of the best players in the game. David Price … you don’t replace him. But you move forward,” Roenicke said. “This team, they’re focused on what they can do and showing people wrong.

“This is a really good ballclub. There are some tremendous athletes on this team,” he said. “And you hope that the guys you replace them with become great players. And whether it’s this year, whether it’s a few years. You just keep moving on.”

After winning a franchise-record 108 regular-season games and the World Series in 2018, Cora’s first year, the Red Sox followed that up by missing the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

“We’re very disappointed — as all these players are — in what happened last year,” Roenicke said. “And our focus is to try to get back in the playoffs, and seeing what happens after that.”

Roenicke spent five years as the Brewers manager from 2010-15, winning 96 games and the NL Central title in his first season and finishing as runner-up for NL manager of the year. In all, he led Milwaukee to a 342-331 record in five seasons.

“Right away, I thought I would” get another chance, Roenicke said. “But then as years go by you, you kind of wonder about it.”

Roenicke batted .238 with 17 homers and 113 RBIs as an outfielder and pinch hitter with six teams from 1981-88. The younger brother of major-leaguer Gary Roenicke, he went on to coach in the Dodgers and Angels systems before taking over the Brewers in the 2011 season.

“Whether it’s a good season, which I had my first year, or whether it’s a poor season, which we had my last year there, you’re still learning things. And all the time I’m thinking about, ‘What could I have done better?'” he said. “”I want to do this job better.”