Report: Alex Rodriguez is also at odds with the players union

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We learned yesterday that Alex Rodriguez filed separate lawsuits against Major League Baseball and a Yankees team doctor, but there’s still plenty of drama where that came from.

According to Serge F. Kovaleski and Steve Eder of the New York Times, Rodriguez grew so frustrated with what he perceived to be lack of support from the players union that he had one of his lawyers write a letter in late August to formally request that the union step aside as his chief representative on his arbitration panel for his appeal.

The letter, which was obtained by The New York Times and has not been previously reported, was dated Aug. 22 and sent on the letterhead of Reed Smith, one of the law firms representing Rodriguez. In it, Rodriguez’s lawyers notified the players association that they believed the union failed to “fairly represent his interests” regarding Major League Baseball’s investigation of Biogenesis of America, a South Florida anti-aging clinic that baseball officials say dispensed banned substances to ballplayers, including Rodriguez.

The letter argued that the players association had missed opportunities to challenge baseball officials’ aggressive investigative tactics; that the union had not strongly enough condemned baseball’s “gratuitous leaks” to the news media; and, most pointedly, that Michael Weiner, the union’s executive director, had publicly compromised Rodriguez’s position in a radio interview when he signaled that Rodriguez should have accepted some type of suspension “based on the evidence we saw.” Rodriguez and his personal lawyers have steadfastly maintained that Rodriguez should not have been suspended.

The union “has made matters worse by failing to protest M.L.B.’s thuggish tactics in its investigation, including paying individuals to produce documents and to testify on M.L.B.’s behalf, and bullying and intimidating those individuals who refuse to cooperate with their ‘witch hunt’ against the players — indeed principally Mr. Rodriguez,” the letter said.

The letter was addressed to David Prouty, the players association’s general counsel, with the aim of replacing the union’s lawyer for his arbitration hearing. It appears that Rodriguez got his wish, as Prouty served on the panel as his representative this week. Who knows where this is going, but our own Craig Calcaterra speculated yesterday that part of A-Rod’s grand plan may be to have the union take a stand against him in order to blow up the arbitration process.

While Rodriguez’s hearing is scheduled to continue in mid-October, his representatives are busy ramping up the rhetoric. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, attorney Joe Tacopina, issued a statement today calling MLB’s efforts to suspend Rodriguez a “crusade” and a “shameful endeavor.” Fun times.

Steven Matz to skip next spring training start with elbow issues

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Mets’ left-hander Steven Matz will miss his Grapefruit League appearance on Monday after experiencing soreness in his left elbow, according to a report by Mike Puma of the New York Post. Matz reportedly first felt discomfort in his elbow on Wednesday after pitching four innings against the Marlins, but a medical evaluation revealed no structural damage.

Still, it’s unsettling news for the 25-year-old, who is coming off of an injury-riddled 2016 season. Matz pitched to a 3.40 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 8.8 SO/9 during his sophomore campaign with the Mets, but his success was hampered by a bevy of shoulder and elbow issues that culminated in season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow.

Comments from Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson indicated that while the club doesn’t believe anything is significantly wrong with Matz’s elbow this time around, the setback could have an impact on his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster. Until he’s cleared to return to the mound, the club is expected to take a longer look at rotation candidates Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.