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Report: Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun among players MLB seeks to suspend for Biogensis connection

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Performance-enhancing drugs loomed large entering the baseball season, amid reports that dozens of players — many of them high-profile stars — could be suspended because of their reported involvement with a clinic that supplied PEDs.

That story just got bigger.

From ESPN.com investigative reporters T.J. Quinn, Pedro Gomez and Mike Fish:

Major League Baseball will seek to suspend about 20 players connected to the Miami-area clinic at the heart of an ongoing performance-enhancing drug scandal, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, possibly within the next few weeks, “Outside the Lines” has learned. If the suspensions are upheld, the performance-enhancing drug scandal would be the largest in American sports history.

Tony Bosch, the former director of the Miami-based Biogenesis clinic, is “expected to begin meeting with officials — and naming names — within a week,” according to the ESPN.com report. A source familiar with the case confirmed to The Associated Press early Wednesday morning that Bosch has indeed agreed to talk to MLB about players linked to PEDs, and that Bosch’s information could lead to suspensions. The suspensions could be issued within two weeks, though there’s likely to be an appeals process and that may take a few months.

NBCSports.com reached both Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association on Tuesday night, but both declined to comment. Terry Fahn, Rodriguez’s publicist as of January, said to contact New York publicist Ron Berkowitz; Berkowitz declined to comment when reached by phone.

MORE: A closer look at the players facing potential suspensions

The commissioner’s office will be seeking 100-game punishments for Braun and A-Rod because they both committed two offenses — the initial doping and then lying to Major League Baseball officials. The typical punishment for first-time performance-enhancing drug offenders is a 50-game suspension.

Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez is not a candidate for suspension, according to Quinn, because Bosch is expected to confirm to the investigators that Gio only bought league-approved substances. Some of the other names that were found in the Biogenesis documents: Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Yasmani Grandal, Nelson Cruz, Francisco Cervelli, Jesus Montero, Jhonny Peralta, Cesar Puello, Fernando Martinez, Everth Cabrera, Fautino de los Santos and Jordan Norberto.

MORE: Why a mass suspension would be a mass fail

The Biogenesis news broke in late January, when it was reported by multiple outlets that Major League Baseball was investigating Bosch under the suspicion that his clinic represented “ground zero” for performance enhancing drugs in Florida, where a disproportionate number of major leaguers grew up, played amateur and college baseball or where they currently make their offseason homes. On January 29, the Miami New Times obtained and published a large portion of the Biogenesis clinic’s records which contained the names of several major leaguers accompanied in many cases by notations which suggested that the players were given performance enhancing drugs. The documents were not conclusive of any player’s use and, in some cases — like with Gio Gonzalez — no connection could be found between the player and any substances which are banned by Major League Baseball.

Immediately after the Miami New Times report came out all of the players involved either denied any involvement with Biogenesis whatsoever or denied that they obtained banned substances.  For example, Gonzalez claims that his father was a patient of Bosch’s. Ryan Braun claims that his attorneys used Bosch as a consultant in his successful 2012 appeal of his PED suspension. Despite the denials, the report and the documents set off a media firestorm which caused Major League Baseball to step up its investigation of the players named therein.

Cubs extend Pedro Strop through 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.

Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.

The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.

Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.

Video: John Axford discusses 2017 Oscar picks

MILWAUKEE, WI - JUNE 08:  John Axford #61 of the Oakland Athletics throws a pitch during the seventh inning of a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on June 8, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Sure, it may feel gimmicky to go around asking players to make predictions for the Academy Awards, but when it comes to the Athletics’ John Axford, he knows what he’s talking about. The right-hander has a proven track record of making near-perfect ballot predictions, getting 14 of 15 winners correct in 2013, 18 of 18 in 2014, 17 of 24 in 2015 and 17 of 24 again in 2016.

With a range of award-worthy films to choose from this year, Axford selected the crowd-pleasing (and record-breaking seven Golden Globe winner) La La Land for Best Picture, Manchester By the Sea‘s Casey Affleck for Best Actor and “the sweetheart of Hollywood,” Emma Stone, for Best Actress.

His full ballot was released to Twitter on Saturday, locking in La La Land for eight total Oscars. Going a perfect 24-for-24 might be a near-impossible feat, but if anyone can pull it off, Axford’s the one to do it.