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MLB exec Rob Manfred to testify at Alex Rodriguez's appeal hearing

Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez prepares his bat

Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez prepares his bat for batting practice before a game against the Boston Red Sox. (Sept. 5, 2013) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Major League Baseball chief operating officer Rob Manfred is on the witness list for Alex Rodriguez's appeal of his 211-game suspension in the Biogenesis probe, a person familiar with the process said Wednesday.

Manfred is the league's representative on the three-person panel overseeing the arbitration process, but he has no say in the final decision made by chief arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, who can uphold the suspension, overturn it or reduce it. David Prouty of the Major League Baseball Players Association is the third member of the panel.

Manfred and Prouty have largely symbolic votes in the process.

Rodriguez's hearing resumed yesterday at the league offices in Manhattan. He appeared at the sixth day of hearings and left without comment. His personal attorney, Joe Tacopina, also refused comment. The hearing continues Thursday.

Rodriguez was suspended on Aug. 5 for his alleged connection to the now-closed anti-aging clinic in Miami. Rodriguez appealed the suspension and finished the season playing for the Yankees.

Rodriguez's attorneys are likely to challenge Manfred's appearance, though a source said Manfred has been on the witness list for some time. Manfred's testimony is considered key in MLB's contention that Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch was not paid for his testimony. Manfred, who is second to commissioner Bud Selig, led MLB's investigation into Biogenesis.

George Nicolau, a former chief arbitrator, said panel members, who assist the arbitrator in procedural issues and matters related to their respective parties, have testified before. "Not just before me, but before other arbitrators," he said. Nicolau said it would be up to Horowitz to determine the scope of Manfred's testimony. The sworn testimony given in arbitration hearings could be requested in later court proceedings. "If it's a matter of contesting the , the entire record would go before the judge."

While baseball arbitration is considered an informal process, legal experts view the potential testimony by Manfred as unusual. "Rules of evidence would prohibit a hearing officer from testifying at his own hearing," New Jersey attorney John Furlong said. "If he does testify, it speaks volumes to the lack of adherence to a semblance of evidence protocol." Manhattan attorney Stephan Kallas added, "I would think down the road if Alex Rodriguez decides to bring the arbitration decision to a federal judge that it's possible that a judge would frown upon this method of arbitration."


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