D.R. lawyer: Franco inquiry led by special division

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — A prosecutor in the Dominican Republic says an investigation into Tampa Bay Rays All-Star shortstop Wander Franco‘s is being handled by a division specializing in minors and gender violence in the province of Peravia.

Ángel Darío Tejeda Fabal, a prosecutor in Peravia, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the investigation into Franco is open under The National Agency for Boys, Girls, Adolescents and Family and Gender Violence Unit. He said the probe is in its early stages and will be chaired by Judge Olga Diná Llaverías, a specialist on child abuse cases.

“This is a very delicate topic because there is a minor involved,” Fabal said. “We are working together [with Judge Llaverías].”

Fabal said prosecutors are gathering evidence and testimonies but did not provide details.

“Next week, we might be able to give some of the necessary information without hurting the investigation,” he said.

The prosecutor added he has had no contact with Major League Baseball executives or U.S. authorities about the case.

Franco was born in Baní, the capital of the Peravia province.

It is not clear if Franco has retained an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

On Monday, the Rays placed the 22-year-old on the restricted list, a move that will sideline Franco for at least six games. MLB is investigating the player following social media posts that questioned the nature of a relationship Franco was in with a younger woman.

While teams are not required to pay players who are on the restricted list, the Rays are continuing to pay Franco’s $2 million salary, sources told ESPN.

Franco did not play in Sunday’s home series finale against Cleveland at Tropicana Field and did not accompany the Rays to San Francisco for the start of a six-game road trip that began Monday night against the Giants.

In November 2021, the Rays and Franco agreed on an 11-year, $182 million contract extension 70 games into his career. Franco has been one of the most productive players in MLB this season, batting .281/.344/.475 with 17 home runs, 58 runs batted in and 30 stolen bases, and made his first All-Star team.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.