MILWAUKEE — Both the Milwaukee Brewers and their Opening Day starting pitcher, Yovani Gallardo, were disappointed Tuesday afternoon with how Gallardo chose to start his day.
Gallardo, the team’s No. 1 starter since Zack Greinke was traded last season, was cited on suspicion of drunken driving shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday — when Milwaukee County authorities said he was pulled over with a blood-alcohol level almost three times the legal limit.
A little more than 12 hours later, Gallardo was at Miller Park addressing reporters with a brief statement but did not take any questions.
“You obviously know why I’m here,” he said. “I just want to start off and obviously what happened last night, I made a bad decision. I made a mistake. I made a mistake, and I’m sure I lost a lot of respect from the fans. I just want to apologize to the fans, my teammates, my family. It’s just a bad call. It’s something I shouldn’t have done. I regret it. But at this point there’s nothing I can do about it now. It happened.
“I just want to apologize to the whole organization and all of the people in Milwaukee for my actions. It’s not very easy. It’s one of those things where I truly am sorry. I’m going to make sure something like this never happens again. Whatever the circumstances or consequences, whatever I have to do so this won’t happen again, I’m going to do it. At this point, I wish I could answer questions right now, but it’s just one of those things where it’s an ongoing process. I don’t know how long it’s going to take get this cleared up, the whole situation that happened. The main thing I can do out here is to apologize, especially to the people that look up to me and things like that. Obviously, it’s something I regret and I’m going to make sure it never happens again.”
Milwaukee County sheriff department spokeswoman Fran McLaughlin told the Associated Press that officers responded to a report of a potentially intoxicated driver on westbound Interstate 94 near Miller Park at about 2 a.m. Tuesday.
McLaughlin said Gallardo was driving alone at 40 mph in an area of the freeway that has a posted speed limit of 55 mph. She also quoted the arrest report as stating Gallardo had red glassy eyes, slurred speech and an odor of alcohol and that Gallardo, 27, admitted to having a few beers at a local establishment.
The police report said Gallardo’s blood-alcohol level was 0.22; the legal limit is 0.08. In Wisconsin, a first offense of driving while intoxicated is not a criminal offense, and according to McLaughlin Gallardo does not face jail time but does face close to $800 in fines.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and general manager Doug Melvin met with Gallardo separately Tuesday afternoon. Roenicke reminded Gallardo of the story of Nick Adenhart, a pitcher with the Angels when he was killed by a drunken driver in 2009. The story hits close to Roenicke’s heart because he was a bench coach with the Angels at the time and remembers the pain of losing Adenhart.
“Well, certainly disappointment,” Roenicke said of his reaction to the news of Gallardo being charged. “I realize these things happen, but as much as I talk to guys about most of the stuff that’s on the field and also stuff that’s off the field, you feel maybe you can do a little bit more to make sure guys are doing things the right way.
“My thoughts are always on what could happen to somebody else. If you get in an accident and somebody is hurt or killed, that ruins the rest of your life. You don’t forget things like that. I’m thankful nothing bad happened from it and that maybe this will take care of not just Yo but any of the other guys, that if they feel like they are going to go out and drink some that they know they can’t do it.”
The Brewers address the dangers of drunken driving in meetings during spring training, but that’s mostly because of the strict DUI and OWI laws in Arizona’s Maricopa County, Milwaukee’s spring home.
Because of specific language in baseball’s collective bargaining agreement with the players association, the Brewers can’t suspend a player for a drunken driving arrest. But that doesn’t mean the team won’t find a way to help a player get help if he needs it.
“All I can do is let the player know I care about them, on and off the field,” Roenicke said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to help them out on the field and with their life off the field. As far as doing a lot as far as a punishment, there’s a lot of restrictions put on by the (players) association and by Major League Baseball. You hope it doesn’t come to that, anyway.”
Though there’s never a good time for something of this nature to occur, the Brewers have to deal with the news coming while the team isn’t playing well on the field. Milwaukee starts a three-game series with the defending champion San Francisco Giants at Miller Park Tuesday night, but Roenicke doesn’t believe Gallardo’s incident will be a distraction the ballclub.
Gallardo and Roenicke talked about the right-hander addressing the team, and the manager said a conversation may come when the time is right during a team meeting down the road.
“I think it is a lesson that is maybe good to have this way instead of having something worse happen,” Roenicke said. “I hope everybody else on the team realizes what can happen and everybody is smarter because of it. After talking to Yo, I think what he has to say to the other guys, especially to the younger guys, is going to mean a lot.
“I think the distraction that is there today, I’m hoping by the time Yo pitches, it will be a little easier on him. But, hey, I don’t want this to be easy on him. He needs to know that this can never happen again, and I think he does. You never want it to be too easy.”
In his seventh season with the Brewers, Gallardo started his fourth Opening Day for the team in 2013. Gallardo has established himself as one of the best pitchers in the National League, racking up more than 200 strikeouts in each of the past four seasons. He has a career record of 69-44 with a 3.69 ERA and has won 33 games in the past two years.
Gallardo’s next scheduled start is Thursday afternoon against San Francisco at Miller Park, and he will make that start as of right now. Off to a slow start this season, Gallardo is 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA in three appearances.