UPDATE: A-Rod denies that he’s using the “I had no idea what I was taking” defense

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UPDATE: A-Rod’s team is denying the Daily News’ report:

 

11:03 AM: Or: Great Moments in Unoriginal and Implausible Excuses. From the Daily News:

According to a source with knowledge of Rodriguez’s ongoing arbitration hearings, the embattled Yankee and his lawyers have presented a case based partly on the idea that Rodriguez believed the substances he procured from the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic were innocent legal supplements.

Given that Major League Baseball is still presenting its affirmative case it’s unclear whether this is actually a pillar of Rodriguez’s defense or if it was merely mentioned in passing by one of his lawyers. Regardless, it will not likely do much for him in the court of public opinion. We’ve heard this with Barry Bonds and Rogers Clemens and it rings pretty hollow, especially given that the suppliers of these allegedly legal supplements were shady dudes who gave injections in hotel rooms and private homes in the dark of night.

That said, there could be a reason to offer up such an argument, even if it’s weakly offered. With no blood or urine testing evidence against A-Rod around, MLB has to establish that he actually and knowingly took something illegal. They’ll do it with Anthony Bosch’s word. Combatting that with an “I was duped” argument may seem weak, but so too is Bosch’s word compared to, say, a positive drug test. In other words, it’s weak, but it’s something.

Moreover, a big part of A-Rod’s defense is that Bosch is a liar, and it would be consistent for him to say that everything that comes out of Bosch’s mouth is a lie. If you say he lied about ten things but then admit, well, yes, the stuff he gave me was illegal and I knew it, you pretty much have no defense on that point and you’re helping out his credibility, even if it’s in only a small way.

Will this persuade the arbitrator that A-Rod actually was duped? I seriously doubt it. But it could prevent the arbitrator from concluding that A-Rod’s knowing culpability was certain — a 100% lock — and for every little sliver of doubt inserted into the record, the basis for hitting A-Rod with the most severe penalty possible is undermined in some way.

Oh, and one other thing: it could cause Major League Baseball to alter its case a bit to counter such a claim. To spend time on the “knowingly taking” part of the case that could be spent doing something else. To, even for a few moments, put them on defense. It’s a tactic as old as the legal system itself. And it still exists because it works sometimes. Just ask the L.A. County prosecutors who spent months defending the forensic procedures in the O.J Simpson case. Go ask the MLB officials who were unable to make Ryan Braun’s first suspension stick last year. Was it plausible that the crime lab and a drug test collector tainted samples? Nope. But it put people on their heels for a bit.

Upshot: crappy P.R. move, cynical tactical move but understandable legal move.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.