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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.”

Athletics trade Billy Burns to the Royals for Brett Eibner

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 13: Billy Burns #1 of the Oakland Athletics waits on deck to bat during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 13, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.

Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.

Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.

Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.

Nationals acquire closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 20:  Mark Melancon #35 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies on May 20, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images
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The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.

Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.

With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.

Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.

Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.

The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.