Indians send Zach Plesac home for leaving hotel to go out in Chicago

Plesac's punishment could serve as warning to other MLB players (1:16)

Indians pitcher Zach Plesac was sent back to Cleveland for violating COVID-19 health protocols, which could serve as a warning to other players. (1:16)

Zach Plesac understood the importance of players' behaving in order for baseball to have its season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

He broke the rules anyway.

The Indians sent Plesac back to Cleveland in a car service on Sunday after the young right-hander violated team rules and Major League Baseball's COVID-19 protocols.

The 25-year-old Plesac went out with friends on Saturday in Chicago, following his team's win against the Chicago White Sox.

The team got Plesac a car so he wouldn't be on a plane with teammates and staff in case he contracted the virus.

Plesac apologized in a statement released by the team following its 10-inning victory over the White Sox on Sunday.

"I realize I made a poor choice to leave the hotel, which broke protocols and could have endangered other people," he said. "I understand that in these times of uncertainty, I need to be more vigilant and responsible, and I am determined to earn my teammates' forgiveness and get back to work."

It is not known if Plesac has been tested since he broke the team's code of conduct. He will be isolated from the team and cannot take part in team activities until he tests negative twice.

The Athletic first reported that Plesac was sent home.

"At this point, we'll figure out what the appropriate next steps will be," Indians team president Chris Antonetti said.

With two off days this week, it was likely that Plesac, the Indians' fifth starter, would have been skipped in the rotation anyway.

"It is coming at a complicated time for us," Antonetti said. "We don't need another starter. We were deliberating whether Zach should go to the bullpen or whether we should option him."

The Indians held a team meeting before Sunday's game to discuss the Plesac situation.

"We love Zach, we support him, but he screwed up," pitcher Shane Bieber said. "We're going to handle this in-house, and we'll see where it goes from here."

Major League Baseball has been emphasizing the need for players to be careful and follow its protocols in the wake of coronavirus outbreaks with the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals. The episode with Plesac, the nephew of former big league reliever Dan Plesac, is the most high-profile evidence of baseball's increasing concern about its guidelines.

Last month, Plesac, who has become a reliable starter for the Indians, spoke of the importance of players' abiding by the "code of conduct" that every team was required to submit to MLB in hopes of completing the 60-game regular season.

"Definitely any time you can maintain social distancing is going to be what we have to focus on," Plesac said on July 3. "There are common sense situations, where you see things are packed, or going out to the bars and drinking -- doing stuff like that isn't stuff that's really important to us right now and shouldn't be important to us right now.

"We're given this privilege to be able to come back and play and given this short window to even play. It's a good time now just to really buckle down and focus on what's important and work toward something greater at the end of the season and, for these couple months, lock in and focus on what we have set for us at the end of the year."

The Indians have had few issues since baseball's restart, and their decision to send Plesac home exemplifies how strictly they've adhered to the MLB guidelines. A few weeks ago, slugging outfielder Franmil Reyes was kept away from the team after the Indians spotted him on social media at a July 4 weekend party not wearing a mask.

Plesac is from Crown Point, Indiana, which is about 45 miles from Chicago. In his start Saturday, he didn't allow a run and limited the White Sox to five hits in six innings to improve to 1-1.