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Friday’s roundup: Marlins player admits he lied

Associated Press, DetroitNews

Miami — Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria told a federal jury Friday he lied to investigators about knowing a key figure in an alleged Cuban ballplayer smuggling network linked to a Florida sports agent and a trainer.

Hechavarria testified in the trial of agent Bartolo Hernandez and trainer Julio Estrada, who are accused of conspiracy and alien smuggling.

Hechavarria admitted lying to federal agents in a 2012 interview about knowing a man who helped organize smuggling trips and obtain Cuban player documents.

Hernandez acted as a translator in the interview for Hechavarria, who said he spoke almost no English at the time.

“I was a little nervous and I did not want to tell the truth. And I did not want to be a snitch,” Hechavarria testified.

The man Hechavarria was asked about, Eliezer “Chicharo” Lazo, pleaded guilty to extortion charges in 2014 in a separate Miami case that involved Seattle Mariners outfielder Leonys Martin, who was also smuggled out of Cuba.

Hechavarria testified Friday that Lazo introduced him to Hernandez and was a key player in the smuggling network based in Cancun, Mexico.

After the interview with investigators, Hechavarria said Hernandez asked him why he didn’t admit knowing Lazo and that Hernandez had told him he must tell the truth to the FBI. Hernandez attorney Daniel Rashbaum said with jurors out of the room that federal prosecutors sought improperly to downplay those comments.

“The government is leading these witnesses to only tell part of the story,” Rashbaum said.

Hechavarria will return Tuesday to continue his testimony. He was promised by the Justice Department in a letter that he would not face any charges in the smuggling case if he testified truthfully in the trial.

The Marlins obtained Hechavarria in a 2012 multi-player trade with the Blue Jays, with whom he originally signed after leaving Cuba for $10 million. He testified that 30 percent of that contract went to a Mexican-based sports academy called Baseball Stars that prosecutors say Hernandez and Estrada used as a smuggling hub. Hernandez himself got 5 percent as his agent.

Strasburg is ready to go

That Stephen Strasburg is at spring training with the Washington Nationals, ready from the get-go after missing the end of last season, does not necessarily excite him.

“I don’t think that’s been the issue in past years. Minus my Tommy John year, I’ve always been here Day 1,” Strasburg said. “Question is, I guess, Day 162 — or whatever it is, with those off days.”

The right-hander’s 2016 came to an early end because of an injury, the second time in his career that he has not participated in a Nationals’ postseason.

Now Strasburg wants to be around come October, and is hoping a change in his offseason fitness regimen — running longer distances during the offseason — will help him make it through all of next season without a problem.

“It’s kind of corny, but they say the season’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” said Strasburg, who tried out all of his pitches during a 10-minute bullpen session on Thursday, the first workout day for Nationals pitchers and catchers.

Around the horn

The toxicology report on Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura won’t be released to the public following his death last month in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic.

Tessie Sanchez, a spokeswoman for the Dominican attorney general’s office, said the toxicology report is not a public document, The Kansas City Star reported. The findings only will be released to Ventura’s family and attorneys.

... Marlins president David Samson says multiple groups are interested in purchasing the team.

Speaking before the club’s workout, Samson confirmed owner Jeffrey Loria is being considered for nomination as U.S. ambassador to France.

... Tyler Austin fouled a ball off his left foot early this week taking batting practice during a pre-spring training workout at the minor league complex, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi said an MRI Friday found a small bone break.

Austin will be in a boot for three weeks and won’t start baseball activities for six weeks.

... Reliever Brad Brach beat the Orioles in salary arbitration. Brach was awarded $3.05 million instead of the team’s offer of $2,525,000.

... Infielder Aaron Hill agreed to a minor league contract with the Giants.

... Reliever Tommy Hunter agreed to a minor league contract with the Rays.”