HOUSTON – Roberto Osuna faces his locker, nervously glances over his shoulder, his eyes darting around the room. He's still uncertain who to trust.
The Astros closer hasn’t spoken publicly about that May 7 evening in Toronto until now, and is reluctant to divulge details, not with a hearing scheduled Sept. 5 on a charge he assaulted his girlfriend.
“No one knows what happened but obviously me,’’ Osuna, the former Toronto Blue Jays right-hander, told USA TODAY Sports in a 20-minute interview. “Everybody is quick to judge me and say all kinds of things about it. I’m just waiting for everything to come out so people can really wait to see what happened. I would really like the fans, and everybody else, (to) learn what the media says is not true.
“The biggest thing for me, and it’s sad to me, (is) how people are free to say whatever they want. They can just judge you, and they don’t know you. Everybody is judging me for things they don’t know. I don’t like that.
“Hey, if I’m guilty, you can say whatever you want.’’
As Osuna remains silent on what happened, the public waits.
Toronto defense attorney Daniel Brown told USA TODAY Sports that, unlike many jurisdictions in the U.S., police reports are not public record and the court files only include the basics of the case, like the charges against the individual.
“It’s not common practice to release that information until it’s been presented in court,” Brown said.
Osuna’s lawyer, Domenic Basile, told reporters this month he was pushing for a peace bond, an order that typically spans a year and would lead to the dismissal of charges if the terms are followed. A peace bond can include conditions like a no-contact order between Osuna and the alleged victim.
If convicted, Osuna could face six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
While Osuna says he is confident he will be cleared, he did accept a 75-game suspension without appeal from Major League Baseball for violating its domestic abuse policy. Also, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told reporters this month that Osuna "is remorseful, has willfully complied with all consequences related to his past behavior" and went through counseling.
While other teams passed on acquiring Osuna before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Astros were lambasted when they announced the July 30 deal. The team had to waive its zero-tolerance policy on domestic abuse, saying it did not apply to Osuna since he wasn't a member of the organization when he was arrested.
“The egregious acts are the egregious acts,’’ Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “That’s never going to be debatable among people, and I get it. I have a wife and two daughters. It’s very hard personally to even think about that. But the fact is that the case is still pending, is what most people are offended about.
“Even though you’re suspended by baseball, which everybody thinks is an admittance of guilt -- you forfeit the money ($2.5 million) and the time -- but then it’s still not over and he’s pitching for a contender. I can see the confusing messages around baseball.’’
Teammates take wait-and-see approach
Several Astros players, such as veteran starter Justin Verlander and pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., were apprehensive after the trade. There was a meeting when Osuna joined the team after his suspension, with players seeking answers from Osuna.
Verlander and McCullers, who voiced their disgust for domestic abusers after a video leaked this spring of former Astros prospect Danry Vasquez hitting his wife, now say they are reserving judgment on Osuna until the case is settled.
“I still kind of have the same view,’’ Verlander told USA TODAY Sports. “I don’t know what happened. He can’t tell me what happened. I don’t know what I can and can’t say. He just basically told me to wait and see what comes out.
“I don’t know how to feel about it.’’
Said McCullers: “I don’t want to comment on that. I want to wait until everything plays out.’’
So Verlander and McCullers will wait, along with everyone else.
“Everybody kind of got on me what I said about the other guy,’’ said Verlander, who blasted Vasquez in an Instagram message: “(Middle finger emoji) you man. I hope the rest of your life without baseball is horrible. You deserve all that is coming your way.’’
“But that was different,’’ Verlander said. “I saw video of that guy. I saw the evidence. I haven’t seen anything with [Osuna]. I don’t know. I wouldn’t pass judgment on somebody if I didn’t know what happened.
“So I don’t pretend to assume anything. It’s a sensitive subject. They knew what they were biting off. It’s an interesting dynamic in here.’’
When told that Osuna is eager for the truth to emerge, Verlander said: “I would be too, if he’s exonerated.’’
MORE OSUNA COVERAGE
Other players questioned by USA TODAY Sports say they have embraced Osuna as a teammate now that they’ve gotten to speak with him and know him.
“All I’ve got to say is let all of this sort out and see if people are talking, and how they’re talking in public,’’ All-Star Game MVP Alex Bregman said. “I think once the truth comes out, a lot of people are going to eat their words. ... He’s been an unbelievable teammate, and a great guy.’’
Veteran starter Dallas Keuchel says perhaps he judged Osuna too quickly.
“You’ve got to really step back and remove yourself from the situation,’’ Keuchel said, “until everything comes out and the case is closed. I had to tell myself that as well. It’s not easy hearing about it, but you’ve got to be careful not to make a judgment until something comes out."
Said veteran pitcher Charlie Morton: “This group, in particular, cares a lot about the character in this clubhouse. People that are in this clubhouse are counting on people being good people. So far, he hasn’t demonstrated to the contrary. He’s been great.’’
Handling the scrutiny
The defending World Series champions, who tried to acquire Osuna a year ago, certainly have been delighted by his performance. He has solidified their bullpen, becoming their full-time closer.
They’re also cognizant that since his case is pending, it’s insensitive to celebrate his success. When Osuna enters games, unlike most closers, there is no booming walk-up music, light shows or dramatic scoreboard sounds.
The Astros, who said they have received critical letters and e-mails from season ticket-holders, vow to use this opportunity to raise awareness for the Houston Area Women’s Center.
“People were concerned when we made the trade, it’s a difficult subject and rightfully so,’’ Astros owner Jim Crane told USA TODAY Sports. “It should be. We did as much homework on this as we could, and we felt the guy deserved a second chance. He had done all of his community work, counseling, and done everything baseball asked him to do.
“We are now going to do some stuff around the ballpark that will hopefully benefit women’s centers that address this problem. It’s a sensitive problem, and we want to be proactive.’’
Osuna, 23, a native of Sinaloa, Mexico, wonders if people would give him the benefit of the doubt if he were an American citizen. Maybe if his suspension had been 30 games (like New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman served in 2016), or 15 games (like Boston Red Sox starter Steven Wright served earlier this season), he’d be viewed differently.
“Believe me, different times, different situations, that’s it,’’ said Osuna, who is considering buying a house and living in Houston full-time. “It doesn’t mean I did something bigger than them, or they did something bigger than me. I don’t know how it worked, I just wanted to get back playing baseball. That’s all.’’
All he can do is wait, and endure the insults he takes on the road, whether from fans screaming obscenities at him in Seattle while he sat in the bullpen, or from one in Oakland who shouted slurs about his mother.
“You can say anything you want to me,’’ Osuna said. “None of what you say will hurt me because I know what happened. But don’t talk about my mom. I might lose my mind one day if you try to say something to my mom. She has nothing to do with this.
“There are people who changed towards me, but so many people had my back and were supportive. I heard from guys like [former teammates] Jason Grilli, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. That meant everything to me.
“And here ... the first time I met these guys, they gave me the thumbs up. They said, 'Hey, you’re one of us. Happy to have you.’ They’ve really made me comfortable, and really made things normal.
“Hopefully, when this is all over, it can stay that way.’’
Contributing: A.J. Perez