May 05, 2009

Major League Baseball is expanding its investigation of Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez by adding the pitch-tipping allegation spelled out in Selena Roberts' new book A-Rod to the agenda, people familiar with the inquiry told

While MLB is expected to call back Rodriguez himself, as well as others connected to those 2001-03 Texas Rangers teams when the pitch tipping supposedly took place, the expectation to prove any pitch tipping on Rodriguez's part has to be extraordinarily low.

MLB's burden of proof in a case like that would have to be extremely high to take action; they'd need either Rodriguez to admit to the charges, or for someone else intimately involved to swear to it. It would seem futile to go over video of the games and try to match up alleged tips and pitches, especially since ex-Rangers teammates have come forward to say they didn't notice any tipping, and they were there.

Rodriguez is accused in Roberts' new book of tipping off pitches to opposing players in blowout games with the understanding they'd repay the favor by tipping him off. Roberts, the Sports Illustrated senior writer who broke the story that Rodriguez failed MLB's 2003 survey test, writes in her book that Rodriguez had different signals he'd give to favored opposing players, one for fastballs, one for breaking balls and one for changeups. It is alleged in the book that the signals were given as the Rangers' pitcher would go into the windup.

Roberts wrote in her book that only a few Rangers were aware of Rodriguez's pitch-tipping bent and that those who were aware were furious. Ex-Rangers player Shane Spencer said that he'd heard of such rumors, but others connected to the Rangers have said they didn't notice anything.

A few Rangers people have said at different times that Rodriguez called his own pitchers' pitches on occasion, but no one has publicly come forward to corroborate the pitch-tipping story. Ex-Rangers manager Buck Showalter and Texas star Michael Young said they never saw any pitch tipping going on from Rodriguez. "I was 40-feet away from him and I never saw that," Young said.

MLB has been investigating potential steroid use by Rodriguez since he admitted to failing the steroid test and taking steroids as a Ranger from 2001-03. MLB officials, including chief operating officer Rob Manfred, interviewed Rodriguez March 1, two weeks after A-Rod admitted to failing the test following Roberts' steroid scoop from Feb. 7.

Rodriguez is believed to have told a story to MLB investigators similar to the one he told at his spring press conference, in which he admitted to steroid use from 2001-03 but not before or since, and he also said the steroids were obtained by his cousin, later identified as Yuri Sucart.

Roberts' new book also alleges that Rodriguez took steroids in high school and as a Yankee. For the steroid charges, she relies on unnamed sources and physical circumstantial evidence, such as changes in Rodriguez's strength (she alleges his bench press went from 100 pounds to 310 over the course of a year in high school) and body form (she quotes people connected to the Yankees, saying his chest became round enough in 2005 that he picked up the clubhouse nickname "Bi--- Ti--"), but MLB would need more to take action.

MLB officials have been investigating A-Rod's possible steroid use since his March 1 interview, the New York Times recently reported, and will investigate the latest allegations, as well. However, MLB's burden of proof will be high, making a suspension unlikely even if true.

MLB wouldn't suspend Rodriguez just for finding out he took steroids in high school, since he wasn't a major leaguer at the time, and that period was well before baseball had steroid testing, anyway. However, if he is found to have lied about his steroid use in the interview with MLB executives, that wouldn't necessarily be looked upon too kindly.

Roberts herself has declined to cooperate with MLB investigators, citing a conflict of interest.

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