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Report: Alex Rodriguez “played in an underground, illegal poker game where cocaine was openly used”

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RadarOnline.com and Star magazine have published a report claiming Alex Rodriguez “played in an underground, illegal poker game where cocaine was openly used.”

Tabloid reports should be taken with truck fulls of salt, obviously, but the story is a follow-up to the June crackdown of a Hollywood poker game in which big names like Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Rodriguez regularly played.

Rodriguez previously denied playing in the game in question, which dates back as far as 2007, but has been linked to other “underground” poker games in the past and RadarOnline.com speculates that he could be “facing potential fallout from Major League Baseball, which previously warned him to stay out of illegal poker clubs and now has two investigators looking into his activities.”

Dan Bilzerian, a professional poker player who was at the game, shared a few details:

That game was hosted at investor and record label owner Cody Leibel’s $16.5 million Beverly Hills mansion, and cocaine was openly used. Bilzerian revealed that a fight nearly broke out when Leibel refused to pay after losing more than a half million dollars. … With tempers at the table flaring, A-Rod tried to distance himself from the game, another insider told Star.

“He just shook his head, not knowing what the hell happened,’’ the whistle-blower revealed. “He didn’t want to deal with it at all. He was like, ‘OK, whatever. It’s your game.’ I would estimate A-Rod lost, like, a few thousand dollars that night. After everything that happened, he paid-up and left.”

There are other sordid details in the RadarOnline.com story, such as Rodriguez organizing his own game in Florida, claims of an affair with the event’s host, and the involvement of “thugs.” With that said, he reportedly stopped playing in the games and isn’t accused of using drugs himself, which means most of his involvement comes from having poor judgment and being a rich guy who likes to play high-stakes poker. Ho hum.

While the game included some professional poker players at various times, World Poker Tour champion, NBA analyst, and professional sports bettor Haralabos Voulgaris was recently a guest on the fantastic “Huff and Stapes” podcast and talked about once being turned away from the game at the door because players there–including specifically Tobey Maguire–recognized him. With millions on the table, they understandably didn’t want pros feasting on the game.

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UPDATE: Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York spoke to “an MLB executive” who said they’re taking the Rodriguez allegations “very seriously … because he’d been warned about this before, I would say a possible suspension would be very much in play.”

More from Matthews’ source:

Bud [Selig]’s totally fed up with him. It’s like there’s something new with him every day and it’s impossible to keep up with it. I could see us trying to pursue this a lot further. The truth is still out there somewhere. You get the feeling that Alex says what he thinks he needs to say to get by, and then goes out and does what he wants.

Rodriguez, who’s currently on the disabled list rehabbing a knee injury, hasn’t been reached for comment yet and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman replied “I don’t know anything about it” when asked about the situation today.

UPDATE #2: MLB released an official statement: “We take this very seriously and have been investigating this matter since the initial allegation. As part of the investigation, the commissioner’s office will interview Mr. Rodriguez.”

Report: Arquimedes Caminero likely to sign with Yomiuri Giants

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 21: Arquimedes Caminero #48 of the Seattle Mariners delivers a pitch during a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Safeco Field on August 21, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Brewers won the game 7-6. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Mariners’ right-hander Arquimedes Caminero is nearing a deal with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball, according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. The club has reportedly agreed to sell the 29-year-old’s contract, Dutton writes, though no official move has been announced by either team yet. Caminero is under club control through 2020 and currently ineligible for arbitration.

The right-hander began the 2016 season with the Pirates but was sent to the Mariners in a trade for Seattle minor leaguers Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez in order to clear space in the Bucs’ bullpen. With the Mariners, Caminero produced a 3.66 ERA and 8.2 K/9 through 19 2/3 innings in the second half of the year. Although he boasts an electric fastball, one which consistently averaged 98.7 m.p.h. in 2016, his success rate has been tempered by poor control throughout his major league career. According to Dutton, the Mariners’ willingness to sell Caminero’s contract was a strong indication that they did not see him as a viable contender for their 2017 bullpen or as a potential trade chip further down the line.

Should the deal go through, the right-hander will be the second former Mariner to sign with a Japanese club for the 2017 season. Per Dutton’s report, outfielder Stefen Romero also picked up a contract with the Orix Buffaloes of NPB in late November.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.