Earlier in the day, Schmidt said he believed the Phillies shouldn’t build around Herrera, a Spanish-speaking native of Venezuela, due to a possible language barrier with teammates.
“My honest answer to that would be no because of a couple of things,” Schmidt said. “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.’ Just can’t be – because of the language barrier – that kind of a player.”
Hours after the remark surfaced, Schmidt apologized in a statement released to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com.
“It’s been made known to me that my answer on a radio interview this 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 (English) language, his leadership skills will improve, and no doubt he will be a centerpiece in the Phillies’ future.”
The 25-year-old Herrera told John Clark of CSN Philadelphia that while he respects Schmidt as a Hall of Fame baseball player, “I don’t agree with his comments. It’s disappointing.”
Herrera did add, however, that Schmidt had also called him Tuesday to personally apologize, according to Zolecki.
The Phillies signed Herrera, a Rule 5 draft pick in 2014, to a five-year, $30.5-million contract extension in the winter following his first All-Star campaign in 2016. But Herrera has struggled through the first two months of 2017, hitting just .243/.283/.403 with five home runs, 23 extra-base hits, and 11 walks in 219 plate appearances.