The president of the Carolina League, Jim Mills, said today that five of his umpires have told him that they have heard suspended Alexandria Dukes catcher Angel Rodriguez tip pitches to opposing batters.
"They told me that they have a ballplayer who is telling the opposing batters what pitches are coming," Mills said.
Rodriguez, who returned to his home in Puerto Rico Friday, has denied the charges. He could not be reached for comment today.
He was suspended by the Dukes' major-league affiliate, the Pittsburgh Pirates, Thursday night, pending investigation of allegations that he gave away his signs to opposing hitters. Murray Cook, the Pirates' farm director, said that Mills will conduct the investigation.
One umpire, Coleman Coffelt, who is working the Dukes' series here against the Hagerstown Suns, said today that he had heard Rodriguez tipping pitches the last three seasons.
"I was with Rodriguez in rookie ball at Bradenton (Gulf Coast League) and he was doing it there," Coffelt said. "I told his manager, Woody Huyke, about it, and I didn't hear it anymore . . . Then when I was in the South Atlantic League, he was doing it in Shelby (N.C.). Then I heard it in the last Kinston series at Alexandria.
"He would say to certain players in Spanish, 'curve ball,' 'fast ball inside.' He would give the sign to the pitchers, set up for the pitch and then he would say what the pitch would be. He wasn't obvious about it. He would say it loud enough for the batter to hear. The Kinston series is the only time I heard it this year."
Coffelt said he cannot speak Spanish, but that he started "recognizing the words with the pitches."
Mills said that Coffelt was the only umpire involved in the charges to whom he had not spoken about them.
"I have no idea what sort of action will be taken, if any," Mills said. "If this has been going on, then this is the worst thing to happen in my league."