Alex Rodriguez could face a 100-game suspension now that Major League Baseball is expecting Tony Bosch, the embattled founder of Biogenesis, to testify in its case against players linked to the alleged PED-dispensing clinic, according to ESPN.
The stunning development comes only days after Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman were critical on two separate occasions of A-Rod, who has been on the disabled list since the start of the season after undergoing hip surgery in January.
Rodriguez headlines a 20-player list that includes Ryan Braun, who dodged a positive test for testosterone in 2011 after his MVP season, as well as Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, 2012 All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon and Nelson Cruz. Mets minor-league outfield prospect Cesar Puello also is named. ESPN reported that Nationals ace Gio Gonzalez, who also appeared on the Biogenesis lists, had been cleared by MLB for buying legal supplements.
MLB's investigation was built on handwritten lists that included dozens of players who allegedly purchased PEDs from Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic set up by Bosch in a Miami strip mall. An MLB spokesman declined to comment Tuesday night and union chief Michael Weiner said only that the MLB Players Association did not receive any advance notice of the allegations before the report surfaced.
Asked about the report after Tuesday night's Yankees win, Joe Girardi said, "Our stance all along is that we'll let MLB handle everything and we don't have a comment."
Asked if it would be disappointed if there were mass suspensions, Girardi said, "Yeah, because we all had hoped that we got through it, but obviously we're not through it yet."
Rodriguez has mostly kept his distance from the Yankees since requiring surgery to repair a torn labrum and impingement in his hip. He did not show up at all for spring training, and other than a brief cameo on Opening Day, his only public appearance has been at the team's minor-league facility in Tampa, where he is continuing his rehab.
Before the ESPN report came out, Steinbrenner said Monday that the Yankees were "disappointed" in Rodriguez, but added, "Everybody makes mistakes."
As for the Biogenesis cloud hanging over Rodriguez, Steinbrenner deflected those allegations, much like the Yankees have done throughout the MLB investigation. "He's been rehabbing. We hope he comes back strong," Steinbrenner said. "There's innocent until proven guilty, right? We haven't heard a thing."
But those circumstances changed dramatically Tuesday night when ESPN reported Bosch had agreed to testify against the players in exchange for the dismissal of MLB's suit against him. Previously, Bosch had denied any wrongdoing since the Biogenesis lists first surfaced in a Miami New Times story, but MLB has been pulling on the PED string connected to South Florida for years.
Even if MLB can use Bosch to make these allegations stick, the length of any potential disciplinary action is open to debate. A first PED offense carries a 50-game suspension, a second is 100 games and a third imposes a lifetime ban from the sport. ESPN reported that players such as Rodriguez and Braun could wind up with the 100-game penalty because appearing on the list would count as a first offense and their denials would constitute a second.
Before its deal with Bosch, MLB's efforts to levy punishment against the Biogenesis-linked players had seemed to stall without any further verification of the lists' contents. But according to ESPN, this process may now be fast-tracked, with Bosch expected to meet with officials within a week and suspensions to possibly follow inside of the next two weeks. ESPN also mentioned that Bosch could provide even more names than the 20 already made public.
Any such penalties -- without a positive drug test -- certainly will be fought vigorously by the players association, so it's impossible to pinpoint when these rulings might take effect. As of Tuesday night, the Yankees had 104 games remaining this season, and both A-Rod and Cervelli are on the disabled list.
Cervelli, who would face a 50-game ban, is expected back from a fractured hand by the end of this month but could serve some of the suspension on the DL.
The earliest A-Rod could return is likely to be August, which also would give him time served on the DL, if it comes to that.