On Tuesday, the Indians were forced to defuse a situation that struck an unfortunate blow to Kearns' otherwise solid reputation. The 30-year-old outfielder was arrested on charges of driving under the influence near Lexington, Ky., a few days prior to reporting to camp last month.
Members of the Indians were unaware of Kearns' Feb. 12 arrest until late Monday evening. The outfielder met with general manager Chris Antonetti and manager Manny Acta on Tuesday morning to discuss the matter.
"I'm not going to go into details about it," Antonetti said of the meeting. "We had a chance to visit with Austin this morning and talk through the situation with him. I think I'll leave it at that."
Antonetti deferred to the following statement he released through the ballclub:
"We are aware of Austin Kearns' arrest on Feb. 12 and are in the process of gathering facts and discussing the matter with him. The Indians organization takes these issues very seriously and is disappointed by the circumstances. We will handle the matter internally and will not have any further comment until we have complete information about the incident and the legal process has run its course."
Kearns, who met with reporters outside the Indians' complex, also declined to comment on the details of the situation.
"I really can't say anything," Kearns said. "Some stuff is still in the process of whatever the legal process is. I can't really talk about anything."
Acta called the situation "unfortunate."
"We had a chance to talk to him," Acta said. "I have spent pretty much my whole career managing next to this guy and I can vouch for him, he's a quality human being. But he's also human. I can't expand too much on it, because it's a legal matter right now."
Word of Kearns' arrest did not reach the Indians until a published report appeared on the Jessamine Journal's website on Monday night. Kearns reported to camp a couple of days prior to Cleveland's mandatory Feb. 18 reporting date for position players, but he did not alert the team about his arrest.
A source noted that Kearns initially wanted to inform the team at the time of his arrest, but the outfielder decided to act on the advice of his attorney.
"I went on advice that I was given," Kearns said. "That's that. They know kind of what's going on and we'll go from there."
Kearns has a scheduled court appearance at 9 a.m. ET on March 10 at the Jessamine District Court. Kearns said it is his understanding that he will not need to leave the team, noting that his attorney will attend the hearing in his place.
"I have no reason to think that I will [have to leave the team]," Kearns said.
While the details of Kearns' arrest could not be confirmed, the report in the Jessamine Journal noted that Kearns was pulled over after he was spotted "flashing his headlights and weaving on U.S. 68" in a 2007 Cadillac Escalade.
According to the published report, Kearns was unsteady on his feet and refused a sobriety test upon being pulled over by police. Jessamine County sheriff's deputy Todd Sponcil wrote in his official report that Kearns "advised that he played professional baseball and asked if I could cut him a break," according to the Journal.
Kearns would not comment on the accuracy of the report.
"I can't talk about it. I saw it," said Kearns, referring to the published article. "I can't really talk about it. It's something that whenever we find out the outcome or whatever, I'll answer your questions."
The Indians signed Kearns, a free agent, to a one-year, $1.3 million contract for the upcoming season. He played for the Indians and the Yankees last season, hitting a combined .263 with 10 home runs and 49 RBIs over 120 games. Kearns was traded to New York on July 30.
Kearns said his meeting with Antonetti and Acta went as well as could be expected.
"We had a good talk," Kearns said. "Everybody is on the same page. We're just moving forward."