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Mike Schmidt and Jerry Remy draw criticism for comments on language barrier in baseball

Major League Baseball players who aren’t completely comfortable with the English language may be feeling a bit picked on this week, after comments by Philadelphia Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and Boston Red Sox color commentator Jerry Remy.

During a radio interview on Tuesday, Schmidt was asked whether Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera — who is from Venezuela native and uses a translator during interviews with reporters — is the type of player a team can build around.

“My honest answer to that would be no,” Schmidt told WIP’s Angelo Cataldi.

“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.” ”

Schmidt was criticized by some for his comments. Cataldi defended his radio guest during an interview with the Associated Press.

“There was absolutely no connotation of racism to what Schmidt said,” Cataldi said. “It was strictly a reference to Herrera's language barrier. It's ridiculous the media has blown this out of proportion. If this was newsworthy, I would've known as soon as he said it.”

Still, by that afternoon Herrera said he had received a phone call and apology from the Phillies legend, who also released a statement trying to clarify his comments:

“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. 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.”

That night during an NESN telecast of the Red Sox game against the New York Yankees, Remy made it clear that he does not approve of pitchers, such as Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka from Japan, using translators during mound visits.

“I don’t think that should be legal,” Remy said. “I really don’t.”

When broadcast partner Dave O’Brien asked what he didn’t like about it, Remy responded, “Learn baseball language, you know, it’s pretty simple.”

A Red Sox spokesperson said Wednesday morning: “We do not share the views expressed by Jerry Remy during last nights broadcast."

NESN also released a statement: “Relative to last night's NESN telecast from New York, NESN does not agree with any such views expressed by Jerry Remy and we know from talking to Jerry that he regrets making them. The network sincerely apologizes to anyone who was offended by Jerry's comments.”

charles.schilken@latimes.com

Twitter: @chewkiii

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