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Rob Manfred says Alex Rodriguez has paid the price and deserves a chance

Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks with the media during

Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks with the media during a news conference at the Major League Baseball owners meeting, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, in Phoenix. Credit: AP / Rick Scuteri

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred says Alex Rodriguez deserves the chance to play after serving his yearlong suspension and that the sport is "clean as there is" in the aftermath of the Biogenesis investigation into performance-enhancing drugs.

Rodriguez and his attorneys waged a war of words against Manfred and his predecessor, Bud Selig, in the period leading up to his suspension. But Manfred said the joint drug program superseded any personal exchanges between the parties.

"I think that when you negotiate a program with really severe penalties and a player gets caught up in a problem and is penalized and then serves out his penalty, I think that player is entitled to try and resume his career," he said Thursday in reference to Rodriguez. "I just think that is the essence of the bargain that we struck with the Major League Baseball Players Association. And I don't think of it as forgiveness [for Rodriguez] so much as I live up to the deals I make."

The Yankees' front office did not display quite the same attitude when it met with Rodriguez. A source said he was chastised for his past behavior.

"I'm not going to comment," Manfred said. "I don't agree with the characterization'' that Rodriguez was treated unfairly by the Yankees.

Rodriguez was one of 14 players suspended in the Biogenesis probe. "I think that coming out of Biogenesis, that players understand our drug program's multifaceted," Manfred said. "It involves state-of- the-art testing, but it also involves a very significant investigative capacity that has the ability to develop the type of evidence necessary to sustain very serious discipline.

"The Biogenesis experience shows that there's more than one way that we can find out that someone's using performance-enhancing drugs. No testing regimen is perfect, but we have a very effective supplement to our testing regimen."

Manfred, 55, who replaced Selig last month, was asked if baseball's "steroid era" is over. "I think Major League Baseball is as clean a sport as there is anywhere, amateur or professional,'' he said. "Having said that, I think we will always remain vigilant to make sure that we're doing everything possible to keep the sport as clean as possible."

Manfred is dealing with a reported substance-abuse issue regarding Angels slugger Josh Hamilton, but he said he is "contractually prohibited" from discussing the matter.

Though there is debate about records being tainted because some players are suspected of PED use, Manfred is not inclined to alter the record books, saying, "I think that the numbers that are in the record book are the numbers that are in the record book. And people have to draw their own individual conclusions with respect to words like 'true' or 'not true.' I'm not going to say any more than that."

In other topics:

On the possibility of Pete Rose being removed from baseball's ineligible list for gambling, Manfred said he would "deal with a request from Mr. Rose if and when he makes it." Manfred would not characterize his viewpoint as being different from that of Selig, who left office without acting on Rose's request for reinstatement.

Increasing participation by African-Americans: "I think we have a very effective program in place through the urban youth academy and the RBI programs," Manfred said of the MLB initiative Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities.

Pace of the game: "We have undertaken a modest set of reforms to ensure that we keep the game in that zone where people are comfortable and they enjoy it and don't have the time creep up to the point that it does become a problem."

Defensive shifts: Manfred is monitoring it, but nothing is imminent. "I never suggested that we were about to or we're going to step in and make a rule change on defensive shifts."

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