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Insider

MLB's latest tactic on PEDs

3/22/2013

Michael Schmidt writes that Major League Baseball is planning to sue some involved in the Miami PEDs case for damages.

From his story about the suit to be filed today:

    The suit will seek to recoup money from its targets -- including the clinic's owner and a person who worked for two prominent baseball agents -- and baseball officials also hope it will produce cooperation with their investigation into the clinic's activities.

    The suit is an attempt to solve the longstanding problem that Major League Baseball has faced in trying to discipline players who have been linked to doping but have not tested positive for a banned substance. After a 2007 report by former Senator George J. Mitchell detailed widespread use of performance enhancers by major league players, Commissioner Bud Selig created a department of investigations -- composed of former law enforcement officials -- to better police the sport.

    But to make a doping case against players who have not tested positive, the investigators need documentary evidence or witness testimony. And because the investigators do not have law enforcement privileges, like subpoena power, they have had little leverage in trying to build cases against players that would lead to suspensions.

    So now baseball is trying a new tactic. A lawsuit, if allowed to proceed, would give the sport the ability to subpoena records from the clinic, which is now closed, and compel depositions. Some of the information uncovered could then conceivably be used by baseball to justify disciplinary actions against players.

Forget the possible recompense. This is all about discovery, and if it works -- if it works -- it's an absolutely brilliant approach by Major League Baseball to get some subpoena power and access to information about drug use in Miami. It's their Trojan horse, a possible game-changer and something that should scare the heck out of players who have been hiding their PED use behind the legal system.

Related

Gio Gonzalez is still being investigated, reports The Washington Post.

Nelson Cruz is among those waiting to see whether he'll be suspended.

The issue with Chapman

The theory of wanting to put your best pitchers in the best possible position to get as many outs as possible makes sense. But in Aroldis Chapman's case, there's a significant mitigating factor: He's not a Strat-O-Matic card. He's made of flesh and blood. And he says he wants to stay in the bullpen.

Chapman is not expected to be in the starting five, reports Paul Daugherty. The Reds said later in the day that no final decision has been made, but clearly, there is a lot of fire behind this smoke.

This is not like asking/telling an outfielder to move from center to left, or from third base to first base. This is a significant change that requires major adjustments -- the development of his breaking ball and changeup. Chapman knows he's one of the best closers in the world, and if he starts, he'll have to know there are games in which he's going to get knocked around. Then he'll have to wait at least four more days to get another chance. If the Reds were to force him to do that when he doesn't want to and he struggled, they could lose him emotionally. Chapman doesn't have a plow horse's show-me-the-direction approach; he's known to be a complicated guy, and if he were to fight this internally all year, it would be a mess.

Chapman stands to lose millions of dollars by committing himself to a relief role. The greatest closer in major league history happens to play for the richest East Coast team in baseball, and Mariano Rivera makes $10 million a year less than CC Sabathia, so Chapman has a lot at stake in this choice. And he still wants to close.

If they were the Astros, well, you'd tell Chapman to hang with the starting role. But they're not. The Reds appear to have a great team with the capability of winning the World Series, and Chapman and the Reds know for sure that he can be an important part of that equation. He doesn't know, however, how he would fare as a starter, and is apparently not ready to embrace that uncertainty.

Hal McCoy has more on Chapman's personality, and the Reds' decision to keep him as their closer.

Notables

We've officially entered that time in spring training when teams have a strong sense of whom they're going to cut and whom they're going to keep, and general managers report that there is a lot of trade chum being thrown out in the market. With that in mind, some notes from camps all over:

• The Tigers don't have a lot of starting pitching depth at the highest levels of their minor league system, which is making them even more reluctant to consider a deal of Rick Porcello -- and Porcello has been having a tremendous spring, showing a better fastball and curve than at any point in his career. The Tigers have told other teams that they'll listen to offers, but for big leaguers, not prospects, and they have not made a single specific proposal to another team, asking for a particular player.

• The Pirates have a lot of candidates for the corner outfield and first base among Jose Tabata, Starling Marte, Alex Presley and Travis Snider and Garrett Jones. As it looks right now, Marte has done a lot to follow up on his success of last year and clinch his hold on left field. Snider and Tabata are fighting for spots, and Gaby Sanchez has made a major push for playing time at first base.

Brian McCann will open the season on the disabled list, and although he's targeting April 16 for his return, scouts who have watched him throw say he has a lot of work to do before he comes back, given all the throws that catchers have to make in the course of a game, from warming up pitchers to throwing to bases.

Ricky Romero has struggled terribly in spring training, including five walks in 2 1/3 innings Thursday. Toronto does have the option of sending him to the minors, because he has less than five years of service time. He's owed $22.5 million for the next three seasons, and Mike Rutsey writes that GM Alex Anthopoulos is hedging on what he said about Romero earlier in the spring.

• One longtime National Leaguer told me that it will be important for Roy Halladay to get back some of the velocity he's lost, because Halladay has always attacked hitters IN the strike zone; he's never pitched like Jamie Moyer, trying to trick hitters OUT of the strike zone. Halladay's fastball has been clocked in the 87 mph range this spring, or about 4.5 mph slower than last year.

• The Dodgers are internally comfortable with the idea of shifting Luis Cruz to shortstop and finding third-base production out of the group that includes Jerry Hairston, Nick Punto and Juan Uribe. If they wanted to explore the trade market now, there are no great solutions available -- maybe someone like a Ronny Cedeno -- but later this summer, however, rival executives believe the Indians will market Asdrubal Cabrera if Cleveland starts slowly. The Indians listened to trade offers on him last fall. For now, Don Mattingly says, the Dodgers will deal with it.

• Scouts are curious to see whether a full season with the Dodgers might help Adrian Gonzalez, whose bat speed seemed diminished last year. Rival evaluators say that for the first time, pitchers were able to beat Gonzalez with inside fastballs.

• Weeks ago, the San Francisco Giants talked with catcher Buster Posey about a long-term deal, but nothing is close. The best comparable might be the 12-year deal that Joey Votto got, because no player has accomplished what Posey has in his first three seasons, and because Posey -- a former college shortstop -- has shown he can move to third or first later in his career.

• This is worth thinking about, as the Yankees run out a lineup decimated by injuries: The last time the Yankees finished out of the top 10 in runs, their second baseman was Steve Sax, their catcher was Matt Nokes and their manager was Stump Merrill. It was 1991, when Derek Jeter was a junior in high school.

By the way: Jeter won't play in any more Grapefruit League games.

• It appears that the pitcher formerly known as Fausto -- Roberto Hernandez -- is going to make the Rays' rotation, as the latest Tampa Bay reclamation project. Joe Smith has more.

Scott Kazmir lost weight and improved his slider ... and continues to have a great showing in spring training. It appears he will be part of the Indians' rotation at the start of the season, although no formal decision has been made, as Paul Hoynes writes. Trevor Bauer was demoted.

• Teammates said Paul Konerko was greatly hampered by a wrist problem last year, and after offseason surgery, he's been having a great spring, hitting for power again.

• Oakland has a number of options at shortstop and second base, and with the likes of Jemile Weeks and Hiro Nakajima. But the front-runners could be Jed Lowrie and Scott Sizemore.

• The Angels acknowledged this week that Albert Pujols is dealing with a case of plantar fasciitis, the sort of injury that could nag. If the Angels come to believe Pujols needs some relief, they could always use Mark Trumbo at first and Pujols at DH -- although Pujols' preference has always been to play in the field.

The battle for jobs

1. Jake Arrieta appears to have moved into the lead for the No. 5 spot in the Baltimore rotation.

2. Chris Young faces a decision about his future.

3. Charlie Manuel all but said that Domonic Brown has won a job.

4. Casey Coleman is building a case for a spot in the Cubs' bullpen.

5. Jon Garland has had good results in his effort to be a Mariners starter.

6. Freddy Garcia's hopes are fading.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Ned Yost is close to announcing the Royals' rotation order.

2. The Red Sox must ponder three criteria before promoting Jackie Bradley Jr., writes Scott Lauber.

3. Matt Harrison will start Opening Day for the Rangers.

4. The Giants cut three guys.

Dings and dents

1. Stephen Drew's mind is clear.

2. Nick Markakis was cleared for baseball activities.

3. Jesse Crain is hurting, and that means opportunity for others.

Thursday's games

1. John Lackey had a good day, as Peter Abraham writes.

2. A Twins prospect got a look, and looked good.

3. A rough outing concerns Mike Fiers.

4. Josh Hamilton had a reunion with his old team.

AL East

• The Rays intend to give Fernando Rodney a lot of rest in the next week, after he pitched in eight games in 13 days in the WBC. From Marc Topkin's story:

    [Rodney] sounded equally confident that there won't be a residual effect later in the season.

    "I don't think about September," Rodney said. "I think about staying healthy. If I stay healthy, I know I can do my job."

    The Rays aren't as sure, manager Joe Maddon saying he's "curious" to see what the impact might be given how much they need Rodney, who last season saved 48 games in a career-high 76 appearances.

    "The beginning of the season, I really feel he's going to be fine with that," Maddon said. "I think this actually could help him get off to a good start.

    "I'm concerned more about the backside (of the season), and that's what I'm saying we need to watch. ... Is there going to be a time that we're going to have to back off his innings or appearances based on that? I'm not planning on that, I'm just going to try and wait and read that."

Alex Rodriguez is expected to be with the Yankees on Opening Day.

Casey Janssen doesn't have to pitch on back-to-back days to open the season with the team, writes Richard Griffin.

• Alex Anthopoulos takes a mature approach.

AL Central

Octavio Dotel returned to the Tigers as a champion.

AL West

• Catchers are swinging the bat well for the Astros.

• Josh Hamilton says now that fans in Texas were great, as Gerry Fraley writes.

Daric Barton is at a crossroads, writes John Shea.

Jason Bay started in center field.

NL East

Tim Hudson is getting the ball on Opening Day.

• Greg Stoda writes that the Marlins are wise to be patient with Christian Yelich.

• The Mets named David Wright captain.

• The Nationals' middle infielders come to play every day.

NL West

• Kirk Gibson has confidence in Jason Kubel.

• The Rockies are emphasizing defense.

Other stuff

• Mike Shannon's role in the Cardinals' broadcast booth will be reduced.

• Don Mattingly weighed in on assault rifles.

• Tim Hudson messed with a teammate with his pitch selection. He said afterward it was a knuckler.

Ryan Theriot is ready to walk away.

• It's time for the scoreboard at Wrigley to go, writes Phil Rogers.

And today will be better than yesterday.