- Wallace Matthews, ESPNNewYork.com
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CHICAGO -- Major League Baseball investigators are working to arrange a date to speak with New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez about his alleged involvement in some high stakes, illegal poker games, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told ESPNNewYork.com.
"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 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 the supermarket tabloid Star Magazine, of high-stakes poker, drugs and violence, "contains numerous factual inaccuracies. Alex looks forward to cooperating with Major League Baseball's investigation."
Asked if that meant Rodriguez had never played in any of the illegal poker games, Rubenstein said, "I'm sticking with my statement."
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.
Another story placed Rodriguez in a game with tennis star Pete Sampras.
Said Rubenstein: "Not only has Alex never played in a game with Pete Sampras, Alex has never met Pete Sampras. The tabloid reporting is preposterous."
The games are said to have taken place at the Beverly Hills mansion of Cody Leibel in November 2009.
On Wednesday, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, "I don't know anything about it," when asked about the allegations in the story, and manager Joe Girardi refused to discuss it, saying, "Let's let baseball handle that."
Rodriguez, on the disabled list, began his first day of workouts Thursday afternoon at the Yankees' spring training complex in Tampa.
He arrived in a Mercedes just before noon, waving to a group of 25 fans before entering the complex. He later took the field for about 33 minutes, doing light running, playing catch, taking grounders and hitting in the batting cage off a tee and against a soft toss.
He wore a light brace on the knee and showed no signs of difficulty moving. Rodriguez then went inside to ice the knee and run in the pool.
"I feel good. A good day today. Encouraging first day out there on the field and felt pretty good," said Rodriguez, who signed autographs before talking to the media outside the complex.
Rodriguez said the intensity of the workouts will be increased each day.
"Hopefully 5, 10 percent more every day and see over the next four, five days (how it goes)," Rodriguez said. "It will be a big key to see when I can actually get back on the field for real."
Rodriguez spoke for several minutes about his recovery from knee surgery.
The Yankees had said he would stop his post-workout media session at the team's minor league training complex if any reporter posed a non-baseball question, and sure enough, when asked if he would not discuss the poker games, he said "yep" and walked to his car.
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.