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A-Rod received therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone for several seasons before Biogenesis hit

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There’s a book coming out soon about the Biogenesis scandal. It’s called “Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball’s Steroid Era” by Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times and Gus Garcia-Roberts of Newsday. Sports Illustrated is running a very tasty excerpt from it today.

The subject: Alex Rodriguez, not surprisingly. And while part of it is sexy — apparently, the first words out of A-Rod’s mouth to Tony Bosch were “What were you giving Manny Ramiez?” — there’s a more significant and more interesting part of it all too. Specifically: about the many therapeutic use exemptions A-Rod received to legally take testosterone before he hooked up with Biogenesis.

Therapeutic Use Exemptions — or TUEs as they’re often called — allow players to take otherwise banned drugs if they demonstrate a medical need to do so. These days we hear about them most often in connection with stimulants like Adderall, which are used to treat attention deficit disorder. Of course, a far greater percentage of players in Major League Baseball have therapeutic use exemptions for ADD medicine than the population at large has ADD, and for this reasons many look at the TUEs given for them with suspicion. As a means of players to obtain performance enhancing drugs without having to worry about being suspended.

In the book excerpt we learn that A-Rod received multiple TUEs during his time with the Yankees. But they weren’t for ADD medication. They were for testosterone, which is a really damn rare exemption to get. But A-Rod got it:

Before the 2007 season, Rodriguez asked for permission to use testosterone, which has been banned by baseball since 2003. The IPA in ’07 was Bryan W. Smith, a High Point, N.C., physician. (Baseball did not yet have the advisory medical panel.) On Feb. 16, 2007, two days before Rodriguez reported to spring training, Smith granted the exemption, allowing Rodriguez to use testosterone all season.

A-Rod won the MVP that year and, at the end of the year, famously opted out of his Yankees deal and signed his ten-year contract extension. Even after securing what he had to know was his last professional contract, A-Rod continued to apply for and receive TUEs. In 2008 he received a TUE for Clomid, which is similar to the drug that Manny Ramirez got busted for when he was with the Dodgers. A-Rod took it with Major League Baseball’s approval, however.

I’d be pretty interested to learn more about those TUEs A-Rod got. Why he got them when, apparently, a lot of people didn’t. Whether MLB believes it had been too permissive with them back then and whether A-Rod’s decision to quit relying on those and, instead, go an illegal route with Tony Bosch, angered them in some way. I’d also be curious to know if there is a psychological dependency at work with testosterone and other such drugs and whether Major League Baseball approving A-Rod’s use of the stuff contributed to whatever it was that drove A-Rod to continue to take PEDs, long after he ceased to have much if anything to prove on a baseball diamond.

Report: Rays having “advanced talks” with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter

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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.

Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

Cory Luebke Getty
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.

White Sox reportedly considering Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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Many have speculated on a potential match between the White Sox and Ian Desmond this winter, but we haven’t heard much in the way of legitimate interest. That could be changing with spring training right around the corner, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Chicago is among the teams considering the free agent shortstop.

After turning the page on Alexei Ramirez this offseason, the White Sox currently have Tyler Saladino in line to serve as their starting shortstop in 2016. The 26-year-old is considered a strong defender, but he batted .225/.267/.335 with four homers over 254 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. Desmond is coming off a nightmare of a walk year and has seen his strikeout rate climb by 8.5 percent since 2012, but he possesses more offensive upside and it’s not hard to imagine a bounceback campaign while calling U.S. Cellular Field home.

Similar to fellow free agents Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, Desmond is attached to draft pick compensation after turning down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals. It’s a big reason why a potential deal with the Rays is reported to be a “long shot.” Chicago’s No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft is protected, so they would give up their No. 28 overall pick if they sign a qualifying offer free agent like Desmond.

Pirates sign reliever Eric O’Flaherty

Eric O'Flaherty
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Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to spring training.

O’Flaherty was one of the best relievers in the league for the Braves from 2009-2013, posting a combined 1.99 ERA in 249 innings, but Tommy John elbow surgery derailed his career and he struggled for the A’s and Mets in 2015 while dealing with shoulder problems.

It’s tough to know if O’Flaherty is healthy at this point, but the 31-year-old southpaw certainly has a chance to be a nice reclamation project for the Pirates on a no-risk contract.