Phillips looks to return to lineup following cocaine arrest

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 12 1997 12:00 a.m. MDT

Despite his arrest on suspicion of cocaine possession, Tony Phillips plans to return to the lineup when the Anaheim Angels face the Chicago White Sox to start a seven-game road trip.

Phillips, 38, was arrested early Sunday by Anaheim police, who said he bought a small quantity of free-base cocaine.The fiery leadoff hitter missed Sunday night's game against the Baltimore Orioles in Anaheim, instead leaving for Arizona to spend time with his family after speaking with team officials.

"Tony is scheduled to rejoin the

team in Chicago," Angels director of communications Bill Robertson said Monday. "What we need to do is let the legal process run its course, and we will reserve judgment until all the facts are compiled and reviewed."

When asked if Phillips would play Tuesday night against the White Sox, Robertson said, "That's up to our baseball operations."

Manager Terry Collins said Sunday night that Phillips would play against the White Sox.

Robertson said the Angels, who are being run by the Walt Disney Company for the first full season, wouldn't comment further Monday.

The Orange County district attorney's office will review the case and decide what charges, if any, should be filed.

That could take a while, according to an employee of the county who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"It can take weeks, depending on how quickly the district attorney gets a complaint," the employee said. "I'm sure that they have to look it over, see how it was handled. You know darn good and well they have to find out if it was legally done, how it came down."

A statement released by the police said the arrest came 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 statement said.

Tony Attanasio, Phillips' agent, failed to return phone calls Monday. He told the Los Angeles Times the situation "is something that's explainable. I don't know that it's easily explainable, but it is explainable. I expect it can be resolved in a short time."

Major league baseball spokesman Rich Levin, speaking from his office in New York, said Phillips remains eligible to play.

"Obviously, major league baseball is aware of the Tony Phillips situation," Levin said. "At this point, we don't know very much about it. Everyone is allowed due process in this country. We will see what happens.

"If a person is arrested and convicted, due process has taken its course and baseball can move ahead with whatever action it deems appropriate.

"For a first offender, our policy is to get a person help. The doctors from the clubs and the doctors from the (players) union would meet with him and make sure he has the best possible help he can get."

The Angels issued a statement before Sunday night's game, saying among other things that they "intend to comply with all major league baseball rules regarding the Tony Phillips situation."

The statement also said, "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."

Phillips' teammates refused to comment on the matter, but Collins said after speaking with Phillips that he is "convinced this hasn't been an ongoing problem."

Phillips has been a key factor as the Angels have moved to the top of the AL West standings since they reacquired him from the White Sox on May 18. At that time, Anaheim had a 20-19 record. Now, they're 66-51, tied for first place with Seattle.

Phillips hit .261 with 27 homers and 61 RBIs for Anaheim in 1995, but batted just .198 during the season's final two months, when the Angels blew an 11-game lead and eventually lost to Seattle in a one-game playoff for the AL West championship.

A free agent after the 1995 season, Phillips signed a two-year, $3.6 million contract with the White Sox.

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