ATLANTA -- Mike Schmidt called Odubel Herrera on Tuesday afternoon to apologize for comments he made on the radio that Herrera cannot be a centerpiece of the Phillies because he is not fluent in English.Herrera said he accepted the apology."I don't agree with his comments, but I respect him as
ATLANTA -- Mike Schmidt called Odubel Herrera on Tuesday afternoon to apologize for comments he made on the radio that Herrera cannot be a centerpiece of the Phillies because he is not fluent in English.
Herrera said he accepted the apology.
"I don't agree with his comments, but I respect him as a player," Herrera said through the Phillies' interpreter. "It is disappointing because you never want to hear negative comments, but he called me, he apologized and explained what happened. Everything is good."
Schmidt works as a guest instructor with the Phillies in Spring Training and works weekend home games as a broadcaster with Comcast SportsNet. He released a statement through the Phillies.
"It's been made known to me that my answer on a radio interview [Tuesday] morning to the question, 'Can the Phillies build a team around Odubel Herrera?' was disrespectful to Herrera and Latin players in general," Schmidt said. "I'm very sorry that this misrepresentation of my answer occurred and may have offended someone. I assure everyone I had no intention of that. Odubel is a dynamo on the field, and as he becomes more comfortable with the language, his leadership skills will improve, and no doubt he will be a centerpiece in the Phillies' future."
Schmidt made his remarks Tuesday morning to Angelo Cataldi on 94 WIP.
"My honest answer to that would be no," Schmidt said when asked if the Phillies can build a team around Herrera. "First of all, it's a language barrier. Because of that, I think he can't be a guy that would sort of sit in a circle with four, five American players and talk about the game; or try and learn about the game or discuss the inner workings of the game; or come over to a guy and say, 'Man, you gotta run that ball out.'"
"It was an ill-advised comment," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.
Herrera is not fluent in English, but he has no problems communicating with his manager, coaches and teammates. He occasionally gives interviews in English, if he is comfortable with the subject matter. But Herrera often uses Phillies interpreter Diego Ettedgui because it helps him understand questions and give better answers.
Carlos Ruiz, who was regarded as one of the team's greatest leaders in the Phillies' clubhouse for years, frequently used interpreters early in his career before he became comfortable with his second language. Freddy Galvis, a Venezuela native like Herrera, is considered a leader in the Phillies' clubhouse.
Galvis and Herrera took the call from Schmidt on Tuesday.
"I don't think he meant to disrespect Odubel or Latin players," Galvis said. "I've known Schmidt for about eight years or something like that. He always was a good guy. I don't think he meant to say that. I don't think he meant to say something bad about Latin guys or whatever. I believe some people are taking his words out of context. I believe that for sure. I talked with him already and I think everybody is on the same page. I think everything is good and I think that's it. There's nothing left to say. You don't have to create a big deal where there isn't a big deal."
But the suggestion that a player cannot be a centerpiece to a team because he is not fluent in English irked some in the Phils' clubhouse.
Herrera remained diplomatic about it.
"Of course, it helps to speak English if you're a baseball player," he said. "This country is better if you speak English. It's the main language. I want to speak English. But sometimes you can lead by example. You can lead by doing other things. In my case, I think I bring energy to the team. I think they can feed off of that. That's the leadership I have right now. In the future, when I learn English better and be more comfortable doing that, maybe I'll be the kind of leader that some other people want me to be."
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.