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Barry Bonds wants conviction tossed

SAN FRANCISCO — A lawyer for Barry Bonds urged a federal appeals court on Wednesday to toss out the slugger’s obstruction of justice conviction, saying a rambling answer he gave while testifying before a grand jury was not a crime.

Appellate specialist Dennis Riordan argued that Bonds was not formally or specifically charged with the felony that he was convicted of committing. A federal jury in April 2011 found baseball’s all-time home runs leader guilty of obstruction for saying he was a “celebrity child” when asked about injecting steroids.

Prosecutors asked Bonds during his December 2003 grand jury appearance whether Greg Anderson, his personal trainer, ever gave him “anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with?”

Bonds referred to his father, former major leaguer Bobby Bonds, when he responded “that’s what keeps our friendship. You know, I am sorry, but that — you know, that — I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don’t get into other people’s business because of my father’s situation, you see …”

That particular exchange wasn’t included in the indictment originally released in November 2007. The omission is “the dagger in the heart of this conviction,” Riordan argued.

Further, Riordan said that Bonds ultimately answered the question when put to him again and denied receiving any substance to inject.

Judge Michael Daly Hawkins wondered aloud if Bonds’ direct denial undercut the government’s argument that Bonds intentionally misled the grand jury.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Merry Jean Chan countered that the denial was a lie because Bonds’ former personal assistant, Cathy Hoskins, testified that she witnessed Anderson inject Bonds. Chan said Bonds’ denial and his other rambling answers to the same question throughout his grand jury appearance added up to obstruction.

“He answered the question falsely each time,” she said.

Bonds and his legal team are asking a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss the lone felony conviction stemming from Bonds’ 2½ hours of testimony in December 2003 before a grand jury investigating performance enhancing drug use and sales among elite athletes. Bonds, who was rejected by voters last month in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, wasn’t required to attend Wednesday’s highly technical hearing, though Riordan said his client expressed a desire to watch the proceedings in person.

Riordan said outside court that he advised Bonds to watch from afar rather than personally attending the 35-minute session San Francisco. A local television station was given permission to show the hearing live and streamed at least a couple of segments on the Internet.

“His presence would have been a distraction,” Riordan said.

If Bonds’ conviction is upheld, he will have to serve 30 days house arrest.

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Felix Hernandez new deal official

PEORIA, Ariz. — Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners reached an agreement Tuesday on a contract that is expected to make him the highest paid pitcher in baseball.

“I think it’s a great thing for the Seattle Mariners,” Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “It’s a great thing for Felix Hernandez, and looking forward to this guy being here for a very long time, obviously.”

Hernandez’s deal is worth $175 million over seven years, a source told ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney. Terms of the contract were not released by the team.

Hernandez and Zduriencik will hold a news conference in Seattle on Wednesday afternoon, where the ace right-hander is expected to sign the contract.

Earlier Tuesday, Zduriencik said the sides were having significant talks to try to finalize a new contract for the three-time All-Star and 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner. Zduriencik said then that a deal of that magnitude in years and dollars “takes time to work things out.”

It didn’t take too long. By the afternoon, Hernandez’s deal was done and Seattle had locked up its ace through the 2019 season.

Negotiations had stalled in recent days when concern developed over the condition of Hernandez’s pitching elbow, a source told Olney. There were “minor concessions” made because of the concern for his elbow, a source told Olney.

The new contract will encompass the final two years of his current deal that is scheduled to pay Hernandez $40.5 million in 2013 and 2014. He’ll receive $134.5 million over the additional five years.

Hernandez’s total dollars would top CC Sabathia’s original $161 million, seven-year contract with the New York Yankees and his $25 million average would surpass Zack Greinke’s $24.5 million under his new contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and tie him for the second highest in baseball with Josh Hamilton and Ryan Howard behind Alex Rodriguez [$27.5 million]. Hernandez’s new money would average $26.9 million over five years.

With Hernandez off the market, Detroit’s Justin Verlander and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw become the most attractive pitchers eligible for free agency after the 2014 season. Tampa Bay’s David Price is eligible after the 2015 season.

Hernandez, who will turn 27 on April 8, is 98-76 with a 3.22 ERA in eight seasons with the Mariners. He won a career-high 19 games in 2009 when he finished second in the Cy Young voting then won the award a year later when he went just 13-12 but had a 2.27 ERA and 232 strikeouts.

Hernandez appeared to be making another Cy Young push last year before going 0-4 in his last six starts, which left him at 13-9 with 223 strikeouts.

His career record would be even better if he didn’t play with one of baseball’s worst offenses. Seattle had the lowest batting average in the major leagues in each of the past three seasons. Hernandez has taken 10 losses during that span, giving up two earned runs or less.

For his career, Hernandez has allowed two earned runs or less in 141 of 238 starts, but the team is only 99-42 in those games due to the offensive problems.

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Yanks reach out to Robinson Cano

In a break from their customary policy, the New York Yankees have discussed the possibility of a contract extension with second baseman Robinson Cano, who will be a free agent after this season.

“There’s been a conversation or two,” Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said on Friday at the Yankees’ minor league complex in Tampa. “We’ll get into that and we’ll talk about that at a later date. But he’s been a great Yankee and [we] hope he’s here his entire career.”

Steinbrenner did not specify who the conversations included, but a source with knowledge of the negotiations told ESPNNewYork.com that Steinbrenner has spoken with Cano’s agent, Scott Boras, about the possibility of avoiding having to bid for Cano on the open market next winter.

“It’s very unusual,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “Not only is it a departure for the Yankees, but to have an owner comment publicly on how much he wants a player, it’s pretty obvious they’re going to try hard to hold onto Cano.”

As a matter of policy, the Yankees generally refuse to discuss extending existing contracts with players, managers or the general manager. One of the few times they made an exception — GM Brian Cashman offered to discuss a contract extension with Alex Rodriguez during the 2007 season — the player rejected the overture. A-Rod opted out of his deal that fall and wound up signing a new 10-year, $275 million contract with another $30 million in incentive bonuses.

The 29-year-old Cano, who will play in 2013 under a team option that will pay him $15 million, is expected to command a deal that could reach $200 million if he enters the free-agent market. Cano shares the honor of being baseball’s highest paid second baseman with Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers, but Boras is expected to seek a deal in line with what the Reds are paying Joey Votto ($225 million over 10 years) or what the Angels are paying Albert Pujols ($240 million for 10 years). On Thursday, the Seattle Mariners reportedly agreed to a contract extension with pitcher Felix Hernandez for five years at $135.5 million, an average of $27.1 million per season.

“From a business standpoint, it would make sense for the Yankees to try to sign Cano now,” the source said.

It remains to be seen, however, if Boras would allow Cano to sign with the Yankees before testing the free-agent market. A four-time All-Star, Cano batted .313 with 33 home runs, 94 RBIs and a team-high .929 OPS in 2012. He is a .308 lifetime hitter who has averaged 28 home runs and 101 RBIs over his past four seasons, and is considered one of the best defensive second basemen in the league.

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Ryan Braun listed on record

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun‘s name is listed in the records of the Miami-based anti-aging clinic that allegedly provided performance-enhancing drugs to multiple baseball players, Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday.

Braun’s name, however, is not listed next to any specific PEDs, according to Yahoo! Sports. The Miami New Times reported last week the Biogenesis clinic distributed banned substances to several high-profile players, including New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez.

Yahoo! Sports claimed that it has obtained three Biogenesis records that show Braun’s name. Braun is on a list that includes Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Francisco Cervelli, Danny Valencia and Cesar Carrillo, the website reported.

Braun tested positive for elevated testosterone levels in 2011, the year he was named National League MVP.

But the five-time All-Star appealed the result of the test and avoided a suspension when an arbitration panel upheld the appeal, ruling there were questions with how Braun’s sample had been handled.

Major League Baseball officials have asked the Miami News Times for the records the newspaper obtained for last week’s report. Miami New Times editor Chuck Strouse said Tuesday the paper had not yet decided how to respond, describing MLB’s move as a request and noting the league does not have legal subpoena power.

Notebooks belonging to Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch and other logs describe PED regimens for Rodriguez, Cabrera, Gio Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz and others from 2009 to 2012.

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Yankees want A-Rod contract voided

The New York Yankees are exploring multiple avenues in an attempt to void their contract with Alex Rodriguez based on new allegations of illegal performance-enhancing drug use reported by a Miami newspaper, but the odds may be against their ability to do it.

According to several baseball sources who spoke to ESPNNewYork.com on the condition of anonymity, Rodriguez may be in little danger of having his contract voided, even if the charges turn out to be true. There is no precedent to successfully void a contract in baseball over PEDs.

If Major League Baseball finds cause to discipline Rodriguez based on allegations made in a 5,400-word story published by the Miami New Times, the Yankees will try to find an escape hatch from their remaining five-year, $114 million obligation to the three-time American League MVP.

If nothing else, it illustrates how deep a rift has developed between the Yankees and Rodriguez, who has won two MVP awards as a Yankee and whose play was instrumental in their 2009 World Series championship.

According to an industry source, the Yankees “are looking at about 20 different things,” including whether Rodriguez breached the contract by taking medical treatment from an outside doctor without the team’s authorization, and the possibility that he may have broken the law by purchasing controlled substances from a Miami “wellness clinic” run by nutritionist Anthony Bosch.

“(The Yankees) can’t do anything until the MLB investigation is concluded and they take action, if any,” the source said.

MLB is in the process of investigating Bosch, who has been linked to Rodriguez and several other players. The Miami New Times had specific details and records of Rodriguez’s alleged PED transactions with Bosch. Rodriguez released a statement Tuesday afternoon through a spokesperson denying the authenticity of the evidence.

“The news report about a purported relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Anthony Bosch are not true,” said a statement released by Sitrick & Company, Rodriguez’s publicist. “Alex Rodriguez was not Mr. Bosch’s patient, he was never treated by him and he was never advised by him. The purported documents referenced in the story — at least as they relate to Alex Rodriguez — are not legitimate.”

Rodriguez also has hired famed Miami criminal defense attorney Roy Black to represent him.

According to the Miami New Times, Rodriguez’s name appeared in Bosch’s records 16 times as the recipient of HGH and other PEDs banned by Major League Baseball.

According to two baseball sources — one of whom is familiar with the wording of Rodriguez’s contract — even if it is proven that Rodriguez received steroids and HGH from Bosch, the Yankees would not be able to impose a punishment greater than the mandatory 50-game suspension stipulated for a first-time offender by baseball’s collectively bargained Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Section 7, paragraph M of the agreement states, “All authority to discipline Players for violations of the Program shall repose with the Commissioner’s Office. No Club may take any disciplinary or adverse action against a Player (including, but not limited to, a fine, suspension, or any adverse action pursuant to a Uniform Player’s Contract) because of a Player’s violation of the Program.”

“Baseball’s drug policy was specifically written so that teams can’t do things like this,” one of the sources said. “You can’t use this to try to get out of the last years of a contract.”

The paragraph does not preclude a club from taking further action against a player who is unable to play because of injury or disability “resulting directly from a physical injury or mental condition arising from his violation of the Program” and allows a club to withhold a player’s salary if he is unable to play due to legal proceedings or incarceration due to a drug violation.

However, Rodriguez’s surgeon, Bryan Kelly, recently said in several media interviews that Rodriguez’s latest injury, a torn hip labrum that required surgery that will keep him out of the lineup at least until after the All-Star break, was the result of a congenital deformity and was not related to steroid use.

According to a source, the fact that the Yankees continued to honor Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275 million contract extension after his public admissions of steroid use in 2009 may further weaken their case to void the contract.

By their failure to act in 2009, the Yankees can be legally found to have “ratified” Rodriguez’s behavior, defined as one party “accepting and approving the conduct of the other.”

The Yankees, however, are likely to argue that Rodriguez’s admission covered only the years from 2001-2003, when he was a member of the Texas Rangers, and they were unaware of any steroid use during his time as a Yankee.

The Yankees refused comment except to release a statement backing the commissioner’s office without mentioning Rodriguez.

“We fully support the Commissioner’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” the Yankees’ statement said. “This matter is now in the hands of the Commissioner’s Office. We will have no further comment until that investigation has concluded.”

After it was reported in 2004 that Jason Giambi admitted using steroids to a San Francisco grand jury in the BALCO case, the Yankees unsuccessfully tried to void his contract. But the language in Giambi’s deal would not allow the team to do it. According to the source with knowledge of Rodriguez’s contract, his deal contains no such language.

“All contracts have moral clauses,” a baseball official who handles contract negotiations said. “It will come down to the language in (Rodriguez’s) contract. If it is a normal moral clause, (the Yankees) won’t have much of a case. If there are specific clauses that went into steroids and performance-enhancing drugs, then I doubt he would walk away with his money.”

Baseball can suspend Rodriguez or any of the other players without a positive test. In what is known as a non-analytic positive, they will need documentary evidence — a sworn affidavit from Bosch, or a prescription from a doctor for a banned substance — that would convince an independent arbitrator.

In 2009, after his admission to using PEDs, Rodriguez reiterated to MLB investigators what he had said publicly — that he only used PEDs from 2001-2003 after he received what was then the largest contract in American sports history, a 10-year, $252 million deal.

Rodriguez was not disciplined by MLB after that admission and never has failed an MLB-administered drug test, which means that under the rules, he would receive a 50-game suspension as a first-time offender.

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Braves get Justin Upton in big deal

Arizona traded its star right fielder to the Braves on Thursday in a seven-player deal that sent former All-Star infielder Martin Prado to the Diamondbacks.

For the first time since he was a high school freshman, Upton will have older brother B.J. Upton as a teammate.

The brothers combine with Jason Heyward, who won a Gold Glove in 2012, in an outfield potentially packed with power and speed.

“If we push ourselves to the next level, I feel with the extra push from each other there’s no question we can be the best outfield in baseball,” Justin Upton said in a telephone interview. “I’m not going to give us that label until we prove it.”

The Braves, who also get third baseman Chris Johnson, are giving up one of their top pitching prospects, Randall Delgado, and three minor leaguers in the deal.

They are right-hander Zeke Spruill, shortstop Nick Ahmed and first baseman Brandon Drury.

Prado, projected to play third base for the Diamondbacks, can become a free agent after this season, but Arizona general manager Kevin Towers said he already was working with Prado’s agent on a long-term deal.

B.J. Upton, 28, signed a five-year, $75.25 million contract with Atlanta in November.

Justin Upton, who has five full seasons in the majors but is just 25, said he already got tips from his brother from afar. Now there will be more chances for the two to help each other.

“I think from that standpoint it will be good, but I think more than anything being able to show up at the ballpark genuinely excited every day and have that energy,” he said. “The more energy you can bring from the start every day, it makes you a better player.”

Braves general manager Frank Wren said he expects the brothers will push each other.

“I do think it will drive them,” Wren said. “We’ve been looking for that young dynamic, right-handed, power-hitting outfielder that can hit in the middle of the lineup and makes that other team think a little bit.”

The younger Upton, who has three years and $38.5 million left on his contract, had been the subject of trade speculation throughout the offseason and vetoed a trade to the Seattle Mariners.

Upton had his ups and downs in Arizona, and Towers believes the change of scenery will benefit the young player, who was just 19 when he came to the majors.

“The expectations were through the roof on him,” Towers said. “When the team struggled, it seemed like it was always because of Justin. That’s hard. We’re human beings. It’s hard to take when you’re a young individual trying to establish yourself.”

Now, Towers said, Upton has “an opportunity to go to a different place to where he’s going to fit in with some star players over there, where he’s just kind of a piece of the puzzle versus kind of the centerpiece and the big piece of the puzzle.

“I think some pressure will be off of him.”

Arizona manager Kurt Gibson, his left arm in a sling after shoulder surgery, said he sent Upton a long text wishing him the best.

“I said, `You must be ecstatic to be able to play with your brother.’ I could certainly understand that. It’s got to be a great thrill for him.”

Gibson said Upton reminded him of himself as a player.

“I had some things that happened with my manager Sparky Anderson over the years where maybe we butted heads a little bit and I didn’t agree with him,” Gibson said, “but when it was all said and done it all made sense and it was for me to become a better person and a better ballplayer. I would say similar things have happened with me and Justin throughout our association. I know he respects me and I respect him.”

Prado, who joins fellow Venezuelan Miguel Montero in Arizona, made the All-Star team in 2010 as a second baseman and played mostly in left field last season. Prado was projected to move to third base for the Braves this season to replace the retired Chipper Jones.

Arizona had accumulated a glut of outfielders, signing Cody Ross as a free agent last month. Upton, an All-Star pick in 2009 and 2011, was the most marketable.

Upton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, has played five full major league seasons. Last season, he hit .280 with 17 home runs and 67 RBIs and a career-high 107 runs.

In 2011, while helping Arizona win the NL West, Upton hit .289 with career-best totals of 31 home runs and 88 RBIs and finished fourth in NL MVP voting. Overall, he’s a career .278 hitter with 108 home runs, 739 hits, 147 doubles and 80 stolen bases.

Upton said he hopes to become a more consistent player in Atlanta.

“I’ve had a couple good years where I put up good numbers and my goal all along has been to put those years up consistently,” he said. “I think now I’m in a position with Atlanta … we can really feed off each other throughout that lineup to try to get everybody to that consistent production rate.”

Delgado, a 23-year-old right-hander, had been expected to challenge for a spot in the Braves rotation. His acquisition bolsters the young pitching depth in Arizona depleted by the trade of Trevor Bauer. Delgado was 4-9 with a 4.37 ERA in 18 appearances, 17 as a starter, for the Braves. Rated Atlanta’s No. 3 prospect by Baseball America the past two years, he was 4-3 with a 4.06 ERA with Triple-A Gwinnett last season.

The trade leaves Arizona with three veteran outfielders — Ross, Jason Kubel and Gerardo Parra — along with two youngsters the team feels are ready for the majors — Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollock. Towers projects Eaton as a center fielder and a prototypical leadoff hitter.

Towers said the addition of Ross and a top contact hitter in Prado changes the character of the club.

“I would say we’re going to be a little different club,” he said. “I think we can still hit home runs, but I think the last couple of years we’ve relied too much on the long ball. If you look at our record, those days that we didn’t homer, we usually didn’t win.”

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

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