SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - Alex Rodriguez won't comment on his relationship, whatever it may be, with Dominican trainer Angel "Nao" Presinal Doñé.
Presinal told ESPN Deportes in February that he had worked with Rodriguez, and sources confirmed that. But if Rodriguez - who is in hot water after admitting he used steroids from 2001-03 - won't talk about Presinal, that makes him a rarity among Dominican or Dominican-American players.
Presinal was not around last Monday and Tuesday, and those running the gym in his absence would not let reporters in for a full tour. The pictures in the foyer and just inside the gym told plenty about the difference between Presinal's reputation in the Dominican Republic and in the United States.
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At the entrance is a giant photo of a grinning Presinal surrounded by a half-dozen Yankees - Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, Wilson Betemit and an unknown minor-leaguer - with Reds closer Francisco Cordero.
Further inside are pictures of the Dominican team from the 2006 World Baseball Classic, for which Presinal was a strength and conditioning coach. There is a picture of Presinal with Guerrero and Ortiz, and signed pictures from players such as the Orioles' Daniel Cabrera.
Cano vouched for Presinal after Presinal's association with Rodriguez was made public, saying: "The guy knows what he's doing. I don't care about what happened in the past. I would go back and work with him if I needed to."
Major League Baseball has banned Presinal from clubhouses and other private areas since an October 2001 incident in which customs officers in Toronto found an unmarked bag filled with steroids. Presinal, who was working with the Indians' Juan Gonzalez, claimed the bag but said he knew nothing about the steroids. Gonzalez said it was Presinal's bag and that he had no knowledge of steroids.
Presinal told ESPN Deportes: "I have never advised a player [to take steroids]. I have never talked about steroids with any baseball player."
Since the Gonzalez incident, MLB has tried to keep Presinal out. In the Dominican Republic, though, he remains a respected and beloved trainer who has worked with national teams in numerous sports. For most Dominicans, he is being considered guilty by association.
"Nobody does better work with the guys than we do," said Vladimir Cardoce, a trainer at Presinal's gym.
People at Presinal's gym told Newsday both Monday and Tuesday of last week that they weren't sure if he would come that day or not, but to feel free to wait and find out. Enrique Rojas of Listin Diario, a leading Dominican newspaper, reported Friday that Presinal had not been at his gym because of hypertension possibly related to the A-Rod controversy.
With or without Presinal, the work went on. A couple of dozen aspiring baseball players in their teens lifted weights, did drills and took batting practice, occasionally resting on the broken benches. None had anything but praise for Presinal. Said pitcher Carlos Tejada: "They provide a lot of machines and many areas to train here."
Rodriguez did not name Presinal when he admitted his steroid use. And Victor Rodriguez (no relation), a trainer at Presinal's gym, said A-Rod's admission was unexpected. "It's a surprise," Victor Rodriguez said, "because nobody thought that Alex was mixed up in that stuff."
One longtime scout in the Dominican said of steroid use there: "I think it was real prevalent a few years ago, I mean real prevalent. Now I think the penalties are causing some people to think twice."
WHO IS THIS MAN?
Angels pitcher Bartolo Colon works out at his California home with Angel Presinal. The Dominican trainer is banned from major-league clubhouses but is respected by many players, including A-Rod, Ortiz and Cano.