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Padres' Marcano banned for life over betting violation

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NEW YORK (AP) — San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano was banned from baseball for life for betting on the sport and four others were suspended for one year by Major League Baseball on Tuesday in the game’s biggest gambling scandal in decades.

MLB said Marcano placed 387 baseball bets totaling more than $150,000 in October 2022 and from last July through November with a legal sportsbook. He became the first active player in a century banned for life because of gambling.

Oakland Athletics pitcher Michael Kelly was suspended for one year for betting on baseball while in the minor leagues and three minor leaguers also were banned for one year for betting on big league games: pitchers Jay Groome of San Diego and Andrew Saalfrank of Arizona, and infielder José Rodríguez of Philadelphia. Each of those four players wagered under $1,000. Saalfrank and Rodríguez played previously in the majors.

“The strict enforcement of Major League Baseball’s rules and policies governing gambling conduct is a critical component of upholding our most important priority: protecting the integrity of our games for the fans,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “The longstanding prohibition against betting on Major League Baseball games by those in the sport has been a bedrock principle for over a century. We have been clear that the privilege of playing in baseball comes with a responsibility to refrain from engaging in certain types of behavior that are legal for other people.”

Marcano is the first active major leaguer banned for life under the sport's gambling provision since New York Giants outfielder Jimmy O'Connell in 1924. Pete Rose, baseball's career hits leader, agreed to a lifetime ban in 1989 after an investigation concluded he bet on Cincinnati Reds games while managing the team.

Major League Rule 21, posted in every clubhouse, states betting on any baseball game in which a player, umpire, league official or team employee has no duty to perform results in a one-year suspension. Betting on a game in which the person has a duty to perform results in a lifetime ban.

Marcano became the second North American athlete banned for gambling in recent months. The NBA gave Toronto's Jontay Porter a lifetime ban in April after concluding he disclosed confidential information to bettors and wagered on games, including on the Raptors to lose.

MLB said it was tipped off in March about the betting activity by a legal sports betting operator. New monitoring measures put in place with MLB and the sportsbook triggered these wagers being flagged for attention, a person familiar with investigation told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity Tuesday because that detail was not announced.

None of the players punished played in any games on which they wagered, and all players denied to MLB they had inside information relevant to their bets or the games they gambled on – testimonies that MLB said aligned with data received from the sportsbook.

In its announcement, MLB detailed the bets alleged for each player,

Marcano’s 387 baseball bets included international games and 231 MLB-related wagers for $87,319 from Oct. 16-23, 2022, and from last July 12 through Nov. 1. Twenty-five of those bets included wagers on Pirates games while he was on the team’s major league roster. Now 24, Marcano, has not played since tearing his right ACL last July 24 and was receiving medical treatment at PNC Park last year.

Marcano bet almost exclusively on the outcomes of games and lost all of his parlay bets involving the Pirates, winning just 4.3% of all of his MLB-related bets.

Marcano made his major league debut on April 1, 2021, and has a .217 average with five homers, 34 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 149 games. He has played in both the infield and outfield.

“While the thorough investigation revealed no evidence of any games being compromised, influenced or manipulated in any way in this case, protecting the integrity of our game is paramount,” the Pirates said in a statement.

The other four players did not bet on games involving their assigned teams.

Kelly placed 10 bets on nine major league games from Oct. 5-17, 2021, while a minor league player assigned to Houston's Triple-A Sugar Land farm team. The bets included wagers on outcomes, over/under on runs and an individual pitcher’s strikeout total. Three of the nine games involved the major league Astros. His wagers totaled $99.22 and resulted in $28.30 of winnings.

Kelly, 31, was 3-2 with a 2.59 ERA in 28 games this season, last pitching on Saturday at Atlanta. The former first-round draft pick appeared in 46 games over the past three seasons.

Groome, a 25-year-old who had been on a minor league injured list since mid-April, placed 32 MLB-related bets from July 22, 2020, through July 24, 2021, including 24 on the Boston Red Sox major league team while he was assigned to Boston's High-A team in Greenville, South Carolina. The sport detailed he wagered $453.74 on 30 MLB games and had a net loss of $433.54, receiving payouts on only two wagers. His betting included parlays.

Rodríguez, 23, has been at Double-A Reading this season. He placed 31 bets on baseball on Sept. 30, 2021, and from June 5 through July 30 in 2022, including 28 on MLB and three on college baseball. The total included seven involving the Chicago White Sox at the time he was assigned to their Double-A team in Birmingham, Alabama. Two of the White Sox bets involved outcomes and the others were on runs scored. He bet $749.09 on baseball, of which $724.09 was on MLB-related bets that included parlays.

Saalfrank, 26, pitched in 21 games for Arizona last year between the regular season and postseason, including three World Series games, and two this year before he was optioned to Triple-A Reno on May 1. He placed 29 baseball bets from Sept. 9 through Oct. 29 in 2021 and on March 9, 2022, including 28 on MLB and one parlay on college baseball. He placed four bets on the big league Diamondbacks while on the injured list of their Low A farm team. His baseball bets totaled $445.87 on baseball, including $444.07 on MLB, and lost $272.64 on MLB bets and $1.80 on the college wager. He won just five of 28 MLB bets, which included outcomes, runs and pitcher strikeouts.

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