Tony Phillips, the fiery leadoff hitter who has helped the Anaheim Angels climb to the top of the AL West, was arrested early Sunday morning for possession of cocaine, police said.
Phillips was scheduled to start in left field Sunday night against the Baltimore Orioles, but he and team officials met before the game and decided he should leave and join his family in Arizona, Angel General Manager Bill Bavasi said.
Bavasi emphasized that Phillips remains eligible to play.
Anaheim police said Phillips was arrested as part of an ongoing investigation, using undercover officers and informants, into "the street-level sales of cocaine."
During the investigation, "It was learned that Mr. Phillips was possibly involved in the purchase of and the personal use of cocaine," the Anaheim police said in a statement.
"Shortly after midnight on Aug. 10, 1997, Mr. Phillips arrived at a local area motel room. Mr. Phillips negotiated a purchase of a small quantity of free base cocaine. Shortly thereafter, Anaheim police investigators entered the motel room and found Mr. Phillips in possession of the cocaine, along with paraphernalia to ingest it.
"Mr. Phillips was arrested without incident for felony possession of cocaine. He was transported to the Anaheim police temporary detention facility and booked for that charge. Mr. Phillips posted bail and was released several hours later," the police statement said.
The Angels reacquired Phillips from the Chicago White Sox on May 18. He is hitting .279, and Anaheim is 46-31 since it got him.
"While the Anaheim Angels Baseball Club and Anaheim Sports Inc. do not condone the use of illegal substances for any member of its baseball club or organization, we will reserve judgment until all the facts are compiled and reviewed," the team said in a statement.
Bavasi, asked if there had been any indications that Phillips had a drug problem, shook his head no.
Phillips has been known for his quick temper. On April 21, when he was still with the White Sox, Phillips drew a two-game suspension for his tirade against umpire John Shulock. The dispute apparently was a carryover from the previous day, when Shulock told Phillips to get back in the batter's box.
After he was suspended by AL president Gene Budig, Phillips suggested that the action might have been racially motivated or the result of a vendetta against him.
"I don't know if it's a black-and-white thing or a Tony thing," said Phillips, who is black. "There's a double-standard coming out of that office. It's not fair."
In May 1996, also with the White Sox, Phillips got into a fight with a heckler behind the stands during a game against Milwaukee.
On July 30 of this year at Cleveland, he apparently was hit in the helmet by a small object thrown by a fan as he walked back to the dugout after striking out in the fifth inning. Plate umpire Larry Young and members of the Angels had to restrain Phillips.
Phillips was the leadoff hitter for the Angels in 1995 when they finished the regular-season tied with Seattle for the division title. The Mariners won it with a win in a one-game playoff. The Angels let Phillips go as a free agent after that season, and he signed a two-year deal with the White Sox.