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Nationals’ Starlin Castro placed on administrative leave after domestic violence accusation

Starlin Castro has been placed on administrative leave. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Washington Nationals infielder Starlin Castro was placed on administrative leave while Major League Baseball investigates a domestic violence accusation, it said in a statement Friday. Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said he and the organization learned of the situation Thursday night.

“What I can tell you about me and this organization, as you know, we do not tolerate any kind of domestic abuse,” Martinez said. “Speaking for myself, I think it’s awful. He’s going to be on administrative leave, and after that, there will be an investigation. I don’t know much about anything else, but he will not be with the team.”

The MLB/MLB Players Association joint policy on domestic violence allows the commissioner to place a player on administrative leave for up to seven days as MLB investigates allegations of domestic violence. To extend that leave, MLB needs approval from the union. The leave does not constitute a disciplinary action, and Castro will be paid for its duration.

The nature of the allegation against Castro remains unclear; the statement from MLB did not include any details, nor were any provided by those familiar with the matter.

The Nationals placed Castro on the restricted list a month ago but did not disclose the reason for his absence. At the time, Washington said Castro had left the team to deal with a family matter, and the Nationals, through Martinez, offered their full support in his absence.

That matter is separate from the one that led Castro to be placed on leave, according to people familiar with the situation, who said the accusations against Castro are in reference to an incident that happened earlier in the year. Martinez said the organization would have handled that situation much differently if it had known then about the domestic violence allegations.

“I would have never ever …” Martinez said, trailing off before composing himself again. “His is a totally different situation. If I would have known about this a month ago, we would have had a different conversation, I’ll tell you that.”

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Martinez said he addressed Castro’s situation with the team earlier Friday and relayed the message that domestic violence will not be tolerated.

“I definitely lose a lot of respect for anyone that does some kind of domestic violence, whether it’s spouses, children, whatever,” said Martinez, who added he isn’t sure what will happen after Castro goes through the investigative process. “When that process is done, that will be another conversation. Until he goes through that process, I really have nothing to say to him or anybody about it.”

Castro has not indicated whether he plans to appeal the decision to place him on leave, which is within his rights in accordance with the MLB/MLBPA joint policy. Because players have the right to appeal, MLB often does not place a player on administrative leave until it feels it has enough evidence to justify the decision in the case of such a hearing.

Castro, 31, was accused of sexual assault in connection with a 2011 incident in Chicago. Prosecutors did not bring charges against him, citing insufficient evidence. Martinez said he didn’t have any concerns about Castro’s off-field behavior before these allegations because, from what he had seen, Castro was a good teammate and person.

“Yesterday, when I was told, I was shocked — I really was,” Martinez said. “Then again, like I said, we don’t tolerate that kind of behavior. I’m going to support MLB. And not only in this game but in anything in life, domestic violence is awful. There’s no place for it as far as I’m concerned.”

MLB overhauled the minors this season. Some advocates say it hasn’t been enough.

Castro is the third player under investigation in accordance with MLB’s domestic violence policy. In June, Atlanta Braves outfielder Marcell Ozuna was arrested after an altercation with his wife in which police found him “grabbing the victim by the neck and throwing her against a wall.” Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer is on administrative leave as authorities and MLB investigate allegations of assault against him.

Earlier this week, Commissioner Rob Manfred said he believes MLB’s domestic violence policies are “robust and appropriate.”

“When you put them next to the policies that are present in most businesses, they’re actually broader and more protective in terms of who we cover,” he said.

Asked whether the players’ union has changed how it discusses the treatment of women with its members, Tony Clark, the executive director, said the group makes sure existing policies are implemented in accordance with the agreement the union has with MLB.

In a roster move related to Castro’s absence, Washington reinstated infielder Jordy Mercer from the injured list ahead of Friday night’s opening game of its series with the San Diego Padres at Nationals Park.