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NCAA suspends Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler for 20 percent of the season, Phillies issue statement

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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(AP)

The other shoe has dropped in the Ben Wetzler case. Last week, the NCAA announced the Oregon St. left-hander was suspended indefinitely while they investigated him for inappropriate use of a financial advisor in dealing with the Philadelphia Phillies following the 2013 draft. On Friday, it was announced Wetzler will be suspended for 20 percent of the season, with time already missed included. That means he'll be eligible to return to action on March 2.

Here's the NCAA's official statement:

Oregon State University baseball student-athlete Ben Wetzler must miss 11 games (20 percent of the season) due to his involvement with an agent during the 2013 Major League Baseball draft. According to the facts of the case, which were agreed upon by the school and the NCAA, Wetzler sought help from an agent who attended meetings where Wetzler negotiated contract terms with the team.

NCAA rules allow a baseball student-athlete to receive advice from a lawyer or agent regarding a proposed professional sports contract. However, if the student-athlete is considering returning to an NCAA school, that advisor may not negotiate on behalf of a student-athlete or be present during discussions of a contract offer, including phone calls, email or in-person conversations. Along with the school, a student-athlete is responsible for maintaining his eligibility.

When an NCAA member school discovers a rules violation has occurred involving a student-athlete, it must declare the student-athlete ineligible and may ask the NCAA to restore eligibility. Oregon State submitted its reinstatement request Feb. 18. The NCAA then worked with the school to finalize the facts of the case. The NCAA provided the school and student-athlete with a decision today, Feb. 21.

The Wetzler story was pushed to the forefront on Wednesday when Baseball America's Aaron Fitt reported the Phillies were the ones who turned Wetzler in after he declined to sign before the August deadline.

Though it's unknown who within the Phillies' organization offered the information, the tactic has been universally frowned upon as it's understood around the league that involving an agent/advisor is a necessary and now standard procedure, regardless of the NCAA rule. MLB teams simply don't squeal, because the only purpose it truly serves is to unnecessarily sabotage a young man's senior season in college and potentially his career.

The Phillies did release the following statement Saturday morning, but those looking for an explanation will be disappointed.

The Phillies did participate in the NCAA investigation and a ruling has been issued. We believe it is inappropriate to comment further on either the negotiation with the player or the action taken by the NCAA.

Pretty weak statement that won't help the new perception of the Phillies at all.

The Phillies also reportedly turned in Washington State's Jason Monda last season, though the NCAA eventually cleared him of wrong doing. At this point, Philadelphia is risking alienating every future college junior who may be on their draft board. Why would these kids even bother picking up the phone knowing it's the Phillies calling? Many of them aren't asking or expecting to be drafted in the first place, so there's no upside in talking.

Of course, this all truly begins and ends with another NCAA rule that's both ridiculous and nearly impossible to enforce. It may work well in other sports, but the baseball system is different in that players can be drafted — following high school and their junior year — without ever declaring for the draft. It would be easier on everyone if players in that unusual position were allowed to seek worthwhile advice on their future without compromising their amateur status.

It only makes sense to revise these rules, but it's unlikely the NCAA will take it under serious consideration. To them, there's no problem, because what they don't know — or aren't told — doesn't exist.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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