Braves' Olivera says suspension 'justified,' determined to return

It was a year ago this week when the Los Angeles Dodgers traded Hector Olivera to the Braves for a package that included pitcher Alex Wood and prospect Jose Peraza. That this decision came just two and a half months (and 19 minor-league games) after the Dodgers won a bidding war for Olivera's services -- effectively meaning the organization was eating a $28 million signing bonus -- likely meant one of two things:

• They discovered a serious flaw in Olivera's game.

• They discovered a serious flaw in Olivera's character.

At this point, we can't be certain which is true. Possibly both. But the Braves, who are on the hook for another $28 million in salary through the 2020 season, will have a decision to make soon on what to do with Olivera, who is facing domestic-violence charges in Virginia and will be coming off an 82-game suspension after Aug. 1.

If the Braves hold on to Olivera, it's only because they owe him a lot of money, not because he has proved anything as a major league player, and general manager John Coppolella is determined to make the worst decision of his early tenure look not so awful.

My view on domestic violence is the same as most non-neanderthals: zero tolerance. But in any legal situation, if a person has suffered the consequences of his actions and is considered free to earn a living, I don't have a problem with that. The complicating factor here is Olivera's next court appearance for a misdemeanor assault and battery charge in April during a Braves' road trip has been pushed back to Sept. 8. That comes on the off day after the Braves finish a three-game series in Washington, likely not a coincidence.

Olivera spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday since beginning a rehabilitation assignment in the minors. He appeared contrite and answered all of the questions in an exclusive interview with the Journal-Constitution. While he couldn't get into specific details about his case, he said, "I regret everything that happened and, yes, I do feel remorseful. Like I said previously, I just want to thank the organization for the second opportunity they’re giving me, and I want to make the most of it."

He said the 82-game suspension "was justified."

When asked if the incident should be considered telling of his character, Olivera said: "No. It was something totally out of the ordinary. I take a lot of pride in the person I am, and I take a lot of pride in helping my teammates, my family and other people. So for me, it was not something that was a part of my personality.

"I made a mistake. I’m serving my suspension. Now all I can do is grow from it, help out with community service and try to improve as a person."

Some fans no doubt believe Olivera should be released. What would he say to those people? "I would say to them, 'We’re all humans. We all make mistakes. I made a mistake. I’ve owned up to it and accepted full responsibility for it.'"

We judge people by their actions, not words. Olivera has much to prove on and off the field. He was hitting .211 (4-for-19) before the suspension. He was hitting .150 (3-for-20) with Gwinnett before Tuesday's game.

Following is the transcript of a 17-minute interview, with the assistance of Braves interpreter Franco Garcia:

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About the Author

Jeff Schultz
Jeff Schultz
Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.