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MLB suspensions could drag into weekend; 14 players targeted

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The Canadian Press
7/31/2013 8:02:16 PM
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NEW YORK -- The names are mostly known and so are the possible penalties -- 50 games for most, perhaps a lifetime ban for one.

On Wednesday, the number of players likely to be disciplined in baseball's latest drug scandal stood at 14.

Detroit went out and got itself a new shortstop. Other teams were waiting it out, including the New York Yankees, whose injured star Alex Rodriguez was the biggest name in the investigation of a now-closed Florida clinic.

It now appears the probe won't be wrapped up until at least the weekend.

At first, Major League Baseball and the union thought talks on the Biogenesis probe could be completed by Friday, but negotiations to avoid grievances are likely to push back announcements until at least Saturday or Sunday, according to a person familiar with the talks. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no public comments were authorized.

Both sides felt urgency to complete the process: By the middle of next week, teams will have fewer than 50 games left, which would force players to complete suspensions during the playoffs or at the start of next season.

Front and centre in the scandal is Rodriguez, baseball's highest-paid player, the most prominent player linked in media reports over the past seven months to Biogenesis of America, a closed Florida anti-aging clinic accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs.

Others accused in the media reports include a trio of 2013 All-Stars: Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz, San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera and Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta.

While most of the players face 50-game bans as first offenders, Rodriguez is on track for a lengthier penalty. He could be kicked out of baseball unless he reaches an agreement. The Yankees expect him to be accused of recruiting other athletes for the clinic, attempting to obstruct MLB's investigation, and not being truthful with MLB in the past.

Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski protected against a possible suspension of Peralta by acquiring slick-fielding infielder Jose Iglesias from Boston in a three-team trade Tuesday night.

"If it were a 15-day thing, like a typical injury, I think we could have comfortably dealt with it with the players we already have," Dombrowski said Wednesday. "But when you start to talk about 50 days and a possible playoff run, we feel better going ahead with Jose."

While MLB told the union which players it intends to suspend, it hasn't issued formal notices of discipline. Because of that, the countdown hasn't started under baseball's Joint Drug Agreement, which says the suspensions are effective on the third business day after the notice is issued.

The sides also had not yet decided whether suspensions for first-time offenders who challenge the penalty can be announced before an arbitration decision.

If some stars knew their seasons were about to be cut short, they weren't letting on Wednesday, at least publicly.

"I can't talk about nothing right now. Just wait for the news," Cabrera said Wednesday before playing against Cincinnati.

Peralta thinks he shouldn't be on the list of players linked to Biogenesis.

"It's wrong," he said. "But whatever happens, I need to fight and try to move on."

Rodriguez, a three-time MVP and baseball's highest-paid player, is the biggest star ensnared in the probe. He admitted four years ago that he used performance-enhancing substances while with Texas from 2001-03 but repeatedly has denied using them since.

He's been sidelined all season since hip surgery in January and then a quadriceps strain during a minor league rehab assignment in July. The Yankees say he'll start another rehab assignment Friday -- Double-A Trenton appeared to be the likely destination.

"Hopefully Alex will be back shortly thereafter," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

Rodriguez didn't stop to talk with reporters after his rehab session Wednesday at the team's minor league complex in Tampa, Fla.

Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera, Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon and San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal were all suspended for 50 games last year for positive tests for elevated testosterone. MLB informed the union they won't receive additional discipline for that violation, two people familiar with the probe said. They also spoke on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

"Nothing's been told to me," Melky Cabrera said. "I served my suspension last year, but MLB has never told me that it's OK now. I'm seeing it in the press, but I don't know."

Texas was unable to find a replacement bat to fill a void a suspension of Cruz would create.

"I don't think anybody's comfortable losing a significant part of your club, but it's out of our control," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We explored some deal like that. They just didn't come to a head. It wasn't for lack of interest or lack of effort. It was more lack of supply and lack of fit, really."

Alex Rodriguez (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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