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A-Rod implicated in PED use again as MLB probes

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A-Rod implicated in PED use again as MLB probes

NEW YORK (AP) Alex Rodriguez was ensnared in a doping investigation once again Tuesday when an alternative weekly newspaper reported baseball's highest-paid star was among a half-dozen players listed in records of a Florida clinic the paper said sold performance-enhancing drugs.

The Miami New Times said the three-time AL MVP bought human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing substances during 2009-12 from Biogenesis of America LLC, a now-closed anti-aging clinic in Coral Cables, Fla., near Rodriguez's offseason home.

The new public relations firm for the New York Yankees third baseman issued a statement denying the allegations.

The newspaper said it obtained records detailing purchases by Rodriguez, 2012 All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera, 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon and 2011 AL championship series MVP Nelson Cruz of Texas.

Cabrera left San Francisco after the season to sign with Toronto, while Oakland re-signed Colon.

Other baseball players the newspaper said appeared in the records include Washington pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who finished third in last year's NL Cy Young Award voting, and San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal.

Biogenesis, which the New Times said was run by Anthony Bosch, was located in a beige, nondescript office park. The former clinic is no longer listed as a business in its directory,

``There was a flier put out by the building management a couple weeks ago. It was put on all the doors and windows of all the offices,'' said Brad Nickel, who works in a group cruise planning company on the floor above where the clinic was located. ``It just said this guy's not really a doctor, he doesn't belong here, he's no longer allowed here, call the police or the building management if you see him.''

David Sierra, who works in his aunt's real estate office in the same building, kept a picture of the flier on his iPhone. He recognized the doctor in the picture from passing him in the hallway.

Sierra said while he never recognized any of the clients at the clinic, ``there were always really nice cars in front - I'm not talking just Mercedes. Range Rovers, Bentleys.''

The New Times posted copies of what it said were Bosch's handwritten records, obtained through a former Biogenesis employee it did not identify.

Bosch's lawyer, Susy Ribero-Ayala, said in a statement the New Times report ``is filled with inaccuracies, innuendo and misstatements of fact.''

``Mr. Bosch vehemently denies the assertions that MLB players such as Alex Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez were treated by or associated with him,'' she said.

Rodriguez appears 16 times in the documents New Times received, the paper said, either as ``Alex Rodriguez,'' ``Alex Rod'' or the nickname ``Cacique,'' a pre-Columbian Caribbean chief.

Rodriguez admitted four years ago that he used PEDs from 2001-03. Cabrera, Colon and Grandal were suspended for 50 games each last year by MLB following tests for elevated testosterone. Responding to the testosterone use, MLB and the players' union said Jan. 10 they were authorizing the World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory outside Montreal to store each major leaguer's baseline testosterone/epitestosterone (T/E) ratio in order to detect abnormalities.

``We are always extremely disappointed to learn of potential links between players and the use of performance-enhancing substances,'' MLB said in a statement. ``Only law enforcement officials have the capacity to reach those outside the game who are involved in the distribution of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. ... We are in the midst of an active investigation and are gathering and reviewing information.''

A baseball official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements, said Monday that MLB did not have any documentation regarding the allegations. If MLB does obtain evidence, the players could be subject to discipline. First offenses result in a 50-game suspension and second infractions in 100-game penalties. A third violation results in a lifetime ban.

Rodriguez is sidelined for at least the first half of the season after hip surgery Jan. 16. A 50-game suspension would cost him $7.65 million of his $28 million salary.

``The news report about a purported relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Anthony Bosch are not true,'' Rodriguez said in a statement issued by a publicist. ``He was not Mr. Bosch's patient, he was never treated by him and he was never advised by him. The purported documents referenced in the story - at least as they relate to Alex Rodriguez - are not legitimate.''

Jay Reisinger, a lawyer who has represented Rodriguez in recent years, said the three-time AL MVP had retained Roy Black, an attorney from Rodriguez's hometown of Miami. Black's clients have included Rush Limbaugh and William Kennedy Smith.

Bosch did not return a phone message seeking comment.

MLB hopes to gain the cooperation of Bosch and others connected with the clinic, another baseball official said, also on condition of anonymity because no public statements on the matter were authorized. In order to successfully discipline players based on the records, witnesses would be needed to authenticate them, the official said.

Players could be asked to appear before MLB for interviews, but the official said MLB would be reluctant to request interviews before it has more evidence.

Rodriguez spent years denying he used PEDs before Sports Illustrated reported in February 2009 that he tested positive for two steroids in MLB's anonymous survey while with the Texas Rangers in 2003. Two days later, he admitted in an ESPN interview that he used PEDs over a three-year period. He has denied using PEDs after 2003.

If the new allegations were true, the Yankees would face high hurdles to get out of the final five years and $114 million of Rodriguez's record $275 million, 10-year contract. Because management and the players' union have a joint drug agreement, an arbitrator could determine that any action taken by the team amounted to multiple punishments for the same offense.

But if Rodriguez were to end his career because of the injury, about 85 percent of the money owed by the Yankees would be covered by insurance, one of the baseball officials said.

The Yankees said ``this matter is now in the hands of the commissioner's office'' and said they will not comment further until MLB's investigation ends.

Gonzalez, 21-8 for the Washington Nationals last season, posted on his Twitter feed: ``I've never used performance enhancing drugs of any kind and I never will, I've never met or spoken with tony Bosch or used any substance provided by him. anything said to the contrary is a lie.''

Colon was not issuing a statement, agent Adam Katz said through spokeswoman Lisa Cohen.

``We are aware of certain allegations and inferences,'' Cruz's law firm, Farrell & Reisinger, said in a statement. ``To the extent these allegations and inferences refer to Nelson, they are denied.''

Sam and Seth Levinson, the agents for Cabrera, Cruz and Gonzalez, did not respond to emails seeking comment. Greg Genske, Grandal's agent, also did not reply to an email.

Cruz and Gonzalez had not previously been linked to performance-enhancing drugs. Cruz hit 24 home runs last year for the Texas Rangers, who says they notified MLB last week after being contacted by the New Times.

The New Times report said it obtained notes by Bosch listing the players' names and the substances they received. Several unidentified employees and clients confirmed to the publication that the clinic distributed the substances, the paper said. The employees said that Bosch bragged of supplying drugs to professional athletes but that they never saw the sports stars in the office.

The paper said the records list that Rodriguez paid for HGH; testosterone cream; IGF-1, a substance banned by baseball that stimulates insulin production; and GHRP, which releases growth hormones.

Rodriguez's cousin, Yuri Sucart, also is listed as having purchased HGH. Sucart was banned from the Yankees clubhouse, charter flights, bus and other team-related activities by MLB in 2009 after Rodriguez said Sucart obtained and injected PEDs for him.

Also listed among the records, according to the New Times, are tennis player Wayne Odesnik, Cuban boxer Yuriorkis Gamboa and Jimmy Goins, the strength and conditioning coach of the University of Miami baseball team.

Odesnik, who lost in the first round of qualifying for this year's Australian Open, is a former top-100 player who was suspended by the International Tennis Federation after Australian customs officers found eight vials containing HGH in his luggage when he arrived in that country ahead of a January 2010 tournament. He denied using HGH and never tested positive for it. What originally was a two-year ban was cut in half because the ITF said Odesnik cooperated with its anti-doping program.

``The statement about Wayne's relationship with Mr. Bosch is completely false, and Wayne has contacted the reporter and newspaper for a retraction,'' the tennis player's mother, Janice Odesnik, wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

Mia Ro, a spokeswoman for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in Miami, said she could not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation into Bosch or the clinic.

The University of Miami said it was conducting ``an intensive review'' of the matter but did not identify Goins by name.

Goins was ``very surprised'' to learn of the allegations raised by the New Times, according to a statement from Michelle A. White, of the Coral Gables law firm of Fenderson & Hampton, which said it was representing him.

White would not comment on whether Goins was a patient of Bosch but added that Goins ``has done nothing improper either personally or as a representative of the University of Miami,'' and denies any allegation or inference of wrongdoing.

---

Associated Press writers Jennifer Kay in Coral Cables, Fla., and Curt Anderson in Miami, and AP Sports Writers Howard Fendrich and Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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Inside Baseball: The Nationals' bullpen is currently bad and potentially great

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USA TODAY

Inside Baseball: The Nationals' bullpen is currently bad and potentially great

Welcome to Inside Baseball. Here, we're taking a quick peek at what's going on ... inside ... baseball. 

We're almost a month into the MLB season, and that sweet noise you hear is the sound of sample sizes starting to become reliable! So far, the Red Sox are very good except for the nights they're getting no-hit, Derek Jeter's Marlins and their .227 winning percentage "aren't accepting a losing culture," and Mike Trout is well on his way to another historically-great 3rd place finish in the MVP race. 

AT NATS PARK

As it stands today, the Nationals are sitting in 4th in the NL East. It's early, they haven't been healthy, etc. etc., whatever. It hasn't been great. Their pitching staff features the best rotation in baseball paired alongside one of the worst bullpens in baseball. No bullpen in baseball has a higher homerun/flyball percentage (18%) than the Nationals. Only two teams - the Rockies and the Royals - strand runners on base at a lower clip than the Nationals (64.0 LOB%). If you really want to get into the weeds, their Win Probabilty and Clutch numbers tell a grim story too. 

Don't smash that panic button yet, though (maybe just lightly rest your hand on it?). There are a few reasons to believe that maybe the bullpen isn't actually as bad as they've been the first month.  They're striking out hitters at an elite level so far - only the Brewers and the Yankees have better K/9 and K% numbers than the Nats.  If you take take a look back at which bullpens led the league in strikeout numbers over the last handful of years, you'll see a *lot* of playoff teams. In the three-true-outcome era, having a bullpen that gets swings-and-misses is inarguably valuable. The Nats have that. 

Taking a look at their individual numbers, it's clear there's an excellent backend hidden somewhere in the bullpen right now. Sammy Solis' ERA is almost four runs higher than his FIP (fielding-independent pitching), a clear sign that Solis has pitched well but been a victim of the Nats' shoddy defense. The same goes for Ryan Madson, whose ERA sits at almost seven despite an FIP under three. Assuming that bullpen roles become more established once the data catches up, the Nats' bullpen could look a lot better in a month or two. 

AROUND BASEBALL

What you should know: Manny Machado's half-season showcase is going swimmingly. He's slashing .360/.447/.708 with eight homers through the first month or so of games. He's posted a 208 wRC+, which is a fancy way of saying he's been 108 percent better than league average at the plate so far. He's been the most valuable hitter this season and the second-most valuable player overall. Meanwhile, the Orioles are 6-17 and already 12 games out of first place in the AL East. It hasn't even been a month yet. Is this the year the the MLB trade deadline is exciting?!

What you should watch: Angels @ Astros (4/24-4/25)

Shohei Ohtani is pitching on Tuesday night, so that's reason enough. But, if you need more, there's also Mike Trout, the defending World Series champs, and Justin Verlander pitching on Wednesday. It also happens to be a battle between the best two teams in the AL West, separated by half a game for first place. If there's such a thing as exciting April baseball, it looks like this. 

Player of the week: I know we already talked about him, but no one's been better than Manny Machado over the last seven days. He's hitting .500/.586/1.208 with five homers during that span. After being bit by historically bad luck during the first half of last season, Machado has been putting up monster numbers ever since:

Random baseball gif: 

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Nats give up monster HR, drop series-opener with Giants

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USA TODAY Sports

Nats give up monster HR, drop series-opener with Giants

SAN FRANCISCO  -- Mac Williamson hit a two-run homer in the sixth to lead the Giants past the Washington Nationals 4-2 on Monday night.

Chris Stratton (2-1) struck out five over 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and four hits.

Williamson, playing his first home game at AT&T Park this season after being called up during the recent road trip, connected with a deep drive to right-center off Shawn Kelley after he relieved starter Gio Gonzalez (2-2). Gonzalez walked Brandon Belt to end his day before Williamson crushed the first pitch he saw from Kelley.

The 464-foot shot by Williamson is the furthest homer by the Giants this year, topping his previous 434-foot homer Friday after he was promoted to face the Angels in Anaheim. Earlier Monday, Williamson drove in his team's initial run on a fielder's choice in the fourth.

Only three home runs have travelled further in 2018, according to MLB StatCast: Franchy Cordero (489), Avisail Garcia (481) and Marcell Ozuna (479)

San Francisco kicked off a 10-game homestand by winning back-to-back games for only the second time this season and first since April 4-7. The Giants were coming off their first series victory of the season against the Angels.

The Nationals' runs came on a pair of sacrifice flies, by Howie Kendrick in the third and pinch-hitter Andrew Stevenson in the seventh.

Gonzalez allowed three runs and four hits, struck out four and walked three in five innings.

In his only other start against Washington, Stratton threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts last Aug. 13.

Hunter Strickland, who brawled with Bryce Harper during Washington's last visit to AT&T Park in late May 2017, finished for his fourth save in six chances. Harper didn't bat in the ninth.

NATS TRADE COLE

Washington traded right-hander A.J. Cole to the New York Yankees for cash. The 26-year-old Cole was 1-1 with a 13.06 ERA in four games for the Nationals and was designated for assignment last week.

BAKER REUNION

Ex-Nationals manager Dusty Baker, who guided Washington to back-to-back NL East titles before his firing after last season, visited the ballpark to see his former club.

Did he plan the visit in advance?

"Maybe," Baker said, grinning.

Nats pitcher Stephen Strasburg hustled out to give Baker a big hug behind the batting cage.

"What's up Dusty, how you doing?" Strasburg said.

Baker also visited with third base coach Bob Henley, the loan holdover from his coaching staff.

Baker is now working in an advisory role to Giants CEO Larry Baer while getting to watch son, Darren, play his freshman college season at California in Berkeley.

"I am good," Baker said. "How bad can it be between Cal, San Francisco and Sacramento?"

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: OF Adam Eaton, on the disabled list retroactive to April 9 with a bone bruise in his left ankle, won't be rushed back until he is completely pain-free. "When you see him in the lineup he'll be ready," manager Dave Martinez said. "He's coming along. When we get him back this time we don't want any issues." ... OF Brian Goodwin remains in Florida with pain in his bruised left wrist.

Giants: LHP Will Smith is eagerly anticipating his return from Tommy John surgery that cost him all of last season, and he could come off the DL as soon as Tuesday. He pitched twice for Class-A San Jose and three times so far for Triple-A Sacramento. He is scheduled to throw consecutive days for Sacramento on Wednesday and Thursday then another short outing Sunday. "We're close. We're getting there," Smith said, noting it will be "awesome. I'm ready to go." ... RHP closer Mark Melancon (flexor strain in pitching elbow) is scheduled to play catch during Thursday's off day. There is no timetable for his return, manager Bruce Bochy said. ... LF Hunter Pence (sprained right thumb) did some hitting and is scheduled for early batting practice Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Giants lefty Ty Blach (1-3, 4.10 ERA) will face the Nationals for the first time in his career when he pitches the middle game of the series opposite right-hander Tanner Roark (1-1, 3.24).