Angel Rodriguez, the Alexandria Dukes' catcher who was accused of informing opposing Latin American batters what pitches to expect, yesterday was suspended from baseball for one year after an investigation by the National Association of Professional Baseball Minor Leagues.
A spokesman for Johnny Johnson, the association's president, said notices of the suspension and copies of the findings of the investigation are being sent to Rodriguez, the Dukes and to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Dukes' parent organization.
Rodriguez, who has denied tipping batters about pitches, was not available for comment yesterday. But Murray Cook, director of the Pirates' farm organization, said Pittsburgh would not rule out accepting him back into the organization once the suspension has expired.
"He will have been punished enough, and we would have no reason not to look at him again," Cook said. "I think a year's cooling-off period will be good for both of us."
No action was taken against the batters who allegedly received the tips from Rodriguez and none were identified in the final report of the investigation, the spokesman for Johnson said. Up to eight Latin American players figured in the investigation. There were about 25 Latin American players in the Carolina League last season.
During the course of the investigation, which began last August after Rodriguez was dropped from the Dukes and sent home to Puerto Rico, statements were taken from six of the League's eight umpires and 10 players. But Johnson's aide said information provided by two umpires, Spook Jacobs and Coleman Coffelt, were crucial in reaching the association's conclusion that Rodriguez had alerted opposing batters about what pitches to expect.
Coffelt told investigators he had served as an umpire in the Gulf Coast League and in the South Atlantic League, in which Rodriguez had played during the 1979 and 1980 seasons, and that he had observed the catcher passing signals in Spanish to Latin American batters in those leagues.
"I told the skippers and they took him out of the games," Coffelt said. Coffelt said he saw the same thing happening when he moved to the Carolina League last season, but at first said nothing about it.
"I figured it has been going on for three years and nothing happened, so I didn't do anything," Coffelt said.
Jacobs, who says he understands a little Spanish, was the official who triggered the investigation after a Dukes game last Aug. 19 in Lynchburg. Standing behind the plate, he said he heard Rodriguez say "directa" for fast ball or "curva" and that the catcher also told the batters where each pitch would come once the pitcher nodded acceptance of his signal.
Jacobs reported his observations to Mike Toomey, then manager of the Dukes, and to Jim Mills, president of the Carolina League.
That same evening, in a Lynchburg, Va., hotel, Toomey and Harry Dorish, the pitching coach, confronted Rodriguez with Jacobs' story.
Both Toomey and Dorish say Rodriguez admitted tipping off batters at that meeting, but Rodriguez later denied admitting anything and said only his poor command of English led the two to think he did.
Sent back to Alexandria that night, Rodriguez was notified by the Pirate organization that he was being suspended indefinitely pending the outcome of the investigation. He returned to Puerto Rico the next day.