MLB announces new anti-sexual orientation discrimination and harassment policies

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Back in 2011, MLB and the MLBPA added anti-sexual discrimination language into their collective bargaining agreement for the first time. On Monday the league and the union, in conjunction with New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, announced a copy of a new Workplace Code of Conduct aimed at protecting current and future MLB players from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation. The league and union also agreed to new training policies as well as a centralized complaint system for reporting incidents involving harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Some specifics seem aimed at the folks who may have the most power to craft first impressions of young players who may be gay: scouts and farm directors. As part of the policy the league will disseminate materials on sexual orientation non-discrimination to all club scouting and farm directors involved in the acquisition of amateur talent.

This seems pretty savvy to me because if a player is going to be adversely impacted based on perceptions of his sexual orientation, the greatest impact could theoretically come because the gatekeepers are the ones perceiving it. I mean, if someone is at Double-A hitting .360, people will probably be OK no matter what he’s all about. But when that first impression comes prejudice and discrimination could impact his ability to get a fair shake. Indeed, one line about his “makeup” in a scouting report could make all the difference in the world.

Bud Selig and union chief Michael Weiner each issued statements about the new policy. Selig:

“I expect all those who represent Major League Baseball, as a social institution that has important social responsibilities, to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that our game’s diverse players, employees and fans deserve. We welcome all individuals regardless of sexual orientation into our ballparks, along with those of different races, religions, genders and national origins. Both on the field and away from it, Major League Baseball has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

Weiner:

“The Major League Baseball Players Association supports and promotes a discrimination-free workplace, and firmly believes that every individual is entitled to pursue his or her career in an environment that is free of any type of harassing behavior. Additionally, the MLBPA embraces diversity and supports a workplace environment that welcomes all regardless of race, religion and sexual orientation.”

I find it interesting that the New York Attorney General is the one sort of pushing this — the press release announces him working with the NFL too, so apparently he has decided sports leagues with headquarters in New York are priorities — but no matter what the inspiration, it’s good to see the league address this now rather than have to do so later as the result of some unfortunate high-profile incident.

Felix Hernandez will miss 3-4 weeks with shoulder bursitis

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Mariners’ right-hander Felix Hernandez is looking at a 3-4 week recovery period, the team announced on Friday. Hernandez has been officially diagnosed with bursitis in his right shoulder after getting pulled from his last start against the Tigers on Tuesday.

It’s not the first shoulder issue the 31-year-old righty has dealt with during his career. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times notes that Hernandez was previously diagnosed with bursitis during a minor league stint in 2005, several weeks prior to making his major league start for Seattle. This time around, however, the injury is coupled with a few years of not-so-sharp stuff, waning velocity and career-low numbers, and while it’s certainly not a worst-case diagnosis, it seems like greater cause for concern.

Without Felix, the Mariners will keep rolling with James Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma, Ariel Miranda, Yovani Gallardo and Chase De Jong in their rotation. They’ll also keep Ben Gamel in right field, with starting right fielder Mitch Haniger expected to miss 3-4 weeks after sustaining a Grade 2 strain in his right oblique on Tuesday.

Rays acquire RHP Drew Smith from Tigers

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The Rays acquired minor league reliever Drew Smith from the Tigers on Friday, per a team announcement. The move will close the loop on the trade the two teams began in January for backup outfielder Mikie Mahtook.

Smith, 23, pitched his first full season in Single-A West Michigan in 2016, turning in a 2.96 ERA, 4.3 BB/9 and 11.5 SO/9 in 48 2/3 innings. The right-hander is still several levels away from making any impact on the Rays’ major league roster, but appears to be progressing steadily in two seasons of pro ball and has delivered two runs, four walks and 12 strikeouts in his first 11 2/3 innings at High-A Lakeland this season. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that he’ll be reassigned to the Rays’ High-A Charlotte this week.