Friday, August 5, 2011
Updated: August 6, 4:17 AM ET
Pro: Alex Rodriguez not at poker game
A poker professional who was at a 2009 game in a Beverly Hills home, at which cocaine use and a near-fight allegedly took place, denies a report that New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez was there, the New York Daily News reported.
But that doesn't mean he wasn't at similar illegal games, a source told the newspaper.
Dan Bilzerian was a named source in the original Star magazine story, which alleged Rodriguez attended the game at a record executive's home.
"It's ridiculous," Bilzerian told the Daily News Thursday. "He wasn't there, I'm telling you. He was playing in the World Series at the time."
But another unnamed source who was cited by Star, a supermarket tabloid, told the Daily News that Rodriguez attended at least one game on the same circuit.
"I never played with him in a home game, but I know (someone who) witnessed him at one. It was an illegal house game," the source told the newspaper, speaking on the condition of anonymity because "I don't want to get A-Rod in trouble."
Star magazine reported that Rodriguez was at a game in late 2009 at the home of Cody Leibel, at which cocaine allegedly was used openly and a fight broke out over unpaid debts. Bilzerian told the newspaper the game was in November of that year.
Major League Baseball investigators have been working to arrange a date to speak with Rodriguez about his alleged involvement in the high-stakes games, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told ESPNNewYork.com Thursday.
"They have not spoken with Alex yet," said the source, who is close to Rodriguez. "But both sides are working to get it done fairly soon."
According to the source, that conversation should come "in the next couple of weeks," probably while Rodriguez is in Tampa, Fla., rehabilitating his right knee, which was operated on July 11 to repair a torn meniscus. The source said "scheduling issues on both sides" are preventing the meeting from taking place sooner.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez's publicist, Richard Rubenstein, issued a statement saying the original story published by Star of high-stakes poker, drugs and violence "contains numerous factual inaccuracies. Alex looks forward to cooperating with Major League Baseball's investigation."
Among the allegations in the story are that Rodriguez was present at games with actors Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon; that at some of the games, cocaine was openly used at the table; and that at one of the games, violence nearly broke out when another player refused to pay off on sizable losses.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez has increased the intensity of his infield drills Friday.
Rodriguez took grounders on the infield dirt for the first time since the surgery. He also doubled his swing total in tee and soft- toss sessions during the second day of work at the Yankees' minor league complex.
Rodriguez is encouraged with his progress and said Friday's workout was better than the day before.
He took 40 grounders on his knees at around 70 feet, 10 on the edge of the infield and 10 more at the normal third base position. He also talked with a group of Atlanta Braves minor leaguers, who were at the complex for a rookie-level Gulf Coast League game.
The Yankees expect Rodriguez to rejoin the team in mid-August.
Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Wallace Matthews and The Associated Press was used in this report.