- Wallace Matthews, ESPNNewYork.com
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CHICAGO -- Major League Baseball is taking "very seriously" the allegations that Alex Rodriguez took part in some illegal, underground poker games, one of which reportedly turned violent, and he could face suspension if his participation in the games is confirmed.
"We take this very seriously and have been investigating this matter since the initial allegation," MLB said in a statement. "As part of the investigation, the commissioner's office will interview Mr. Rodriguez."
An MLB executive, speaking to ESPNNewYork.com on condition of anonymity, indicated that Rodriguez could miss games if the investigation proves he was at the poker games.
"We're talking to people involved in the investigation and we're taking this very seriously," he said. "Because he had been warned about this before, I would say a possible suspension would be very much in play."
The allegations, first reported by Star Magazine, are that the New York Yankees third baseman played in at least two of the games, one of which took place at a record executive's Beverly Hills mansion, where "cocaine was openly used" and a fight nearly broke out when one of the players refused to pay after losing "more than a half-million dollars."
According to the story, details of which were reportedly provided by another player at the games, Rodriguez "tried to distance himself from the game," once the violence broke out.
"He just shook his head, not knowing what the hell happened," the whistle-blower said. "He didn't want to deal with it at all. He was like, 'OK, whatever. It's your game.' I would estimate A-Rod lost, like, a few thousand dollars that night. After everything that happened, he paid up and left."
In 2005, Rodriguez had been warned about gambling in underground poker clubs by the Yankees and by baseball commissioner Bud Selig, both of whom were concerned that possible involvement with gamblers who might be betting on baseball games could result in a Pete Rose-type lifetime ban from baseball.
Rodriguez later acknowledged "it wasn't the right thing to do," and checked in with the league before holding a charity poker tournament the following year.
Various reports have the games under investigation going back to 2007.
Although baseball's investigation centers on Rodriguez's card-playing, and he is not thought to have gambled on the outcome of any baseball games, the fact that he may have disregarded Selig's warning is said to have angered the commissioner.
"I don't really have any comment on that," manager Joe Girardi said Wednesday before the Yankees beat the Chicago White Sox 18-7. "Let baseball handle those things."
MLB is also concerned that Rodriguez's name will resurface in the ongoing federal investigation of Dr. Anthony Galea, the Toronto physician who pleaded guilty in July to smuggling human growth hormone and other illegal substances into the United States. Galea has treated numerous professional athletes, including Rodriguez and Tiger Woods.
"It's like there's something new with (Rodriguez) every day and it's impossible to keep up with it," a baseball insider said.
Rodriguez, currently rehabbing in Miami after having knee surgery July 11, could not be reached for comment.
Richard Rubenstein, a public relations representative for Rodriguez, addressed the Star's report Thursday morning.
"The story contains numerous factual inaccuracies and Alex looks forward to cooperating with MLB in their investigation," Rubinstein said.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, "I don't know anything about it," when contacted Wednesday afternoon.
According to the baseball executive, MLB has yet to determine that Rodriguez took part in the games, which reportedly included actors Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.
The man did not know if baseball's investigators had spoken yet to Rodriguez about the allegations, but he confirmed MLB has at least two investigators working on the case.
"I could see us trying to pursue this a lot further," the executive said. "The truth is still out there somewhere."
Recently, it was revealed that Rodriguez still employs his cousin, Yuri Sucart, after fingering him as the "mule" who transported his performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 after his Rodriguez's steroid usage was revealed in a 2009 Sports Illustrated story. This was despite being told by the Yankees that Sucart would no longer be allowed in the clubhouse, and after they encouraged him to keep his distance.
"You get the feeling that Alex says what he thinks he needs to say to get by, and then goes out and does what he wants," the MLB executive said.
Rodriguez, a three-time AL MVP, is hitting .295 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs this season.
Rodriguez ranks sixth on the career homer list with 626. He needs 137 to break Barry Bonds' record.
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
MLB is investigating Alex Rodriguez for possibly participating in illegal poker games.