Cubs president Theo Epstein made clear his position Thursday on outfield prospect Jorge Soler's suspension for a bat-wielding incident.
"We condemn the act, what took place, but we support the player," Epstein said.
Contact information ( * required )
Soler, a 21-year-old outfielder from Cuba, received a five-game suspension from the Class A Florida State League for the incident during a game against Clearwater Wednesday night.
Soler walked toward the Clearwater dugout after the seventh inning with a bat in his hand. According to reports, Soler did not swing the bat at anyone and was intercepted by his teammates.
The Daytona Beach News Journal reported that the incident apparently was touched off by a confrontation between Soler and Clearwater's Carlos Alonso at second base after the final play of the seventh.
"Soler slid into the base on the play, and he and Alonso exchanged words," the paper reported. "Teammates from each side came out to separate the two, and the groups headed back to their dugouts. But Soler came sprinting back out of the Cubs' dugout -- bat in hand -- toward the Threshers dugout."
Epstein said Soler relayed that the incident was touched off by personal remarks.
"According to Jorge, there was some back-and-forth with a player on the other team throughout most of the game," Epstein said. "Eventually, something was said about Jorge's family, and that's when he lost his cool. He understands, and we agree, that's not an excuse for what happened. He has to find a way to better manage his emotions."
Soler's English is limited, and Cubs assistant director of player development Alex Suarez took the lead in speaking Spanish with Soler in the team's conversation with him.
"Jorge is tremendously remorseful about what happened," Epstein said. "He understands what he did was wrong. He didn't sleep last night. He was up all night thinking about it. Very apologetic. Understands this can't happen again, understands there will be discipline associated with it."
Under Epstein's office, the Cubs have stepped up efforts in educating their minor-league players, both in on-field and off-the field matters. Soler defected from Cuba in 2011. The Cubs last June signd him to a nine-year, $30 million major-league contract.
"It's important to remind yourself that you're also dealing with young men away from home for the first time," Epstein said. "Jorge is probably dealing with as much transition, more transition, than anyone in our system, being in a new country, away from his family, away from his culture. He's adjusting to a lot of things. Again, it's not an excuse for what happened. It's just a reminder for how important it is for us to support him and help him make these adjustments.
"This is a great kid. He's already overcome a lot in his life and someone that we're not worried about at all for the long haul. He's been thrust into a very high-profile situation very suddenly. It's our job as an organization to make sure he has the tools to make good decisions even in the heat of the moment."
In spring training, Cubs veteran Alfonso Soriano talked with Soler and prospect Javier Baez, who also is at Daytona.
"Work hard and don't pay attention to all that in the minor leagues because sometimes people like negatives," said Soriano, who said he'll try to call Soler. "Just play hard, and sooner or later, you'll be in the big leagues if you do the right things.
"Focus on playing baseball and that's it. I talked to him a lot in spring training. He looked to be like a nice guy, a quiet guy. I was surprised."
Pitcher Jeff Samardzija, like Soler, also received a multiyear major-league contract before he played in the big leagues.
"When I was playing down there, they knew who I was from playing football, and they wanted to prove I shouldn't be on a baseball field," Samardzija said. "You have to understand you're going to get everybody's best, and you're also going to get everybody's worst. You have to learn how to deal with both."