Union: No more than 11 free agents spoke in probe

Updated: November 9, 2007, 1:31 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ORLANDO, Fla. -- No more than 11 players from this year's free-agent class were asked to speak with George Mitchell as part of his investigation into performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, a union official told agents this week.

Michael Weiner, the union's general counsel, made the statement Wednesday to agents attending a meeting in New York, two people with knowledge of the session said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the remarks were intended to remain private.

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The Boston Globe's Web site Thursday afternoon reported agents were told at the meeting that 11 current free-agent players are named in Mitchell's report, and the players have been notified by the commisioner's office.

Later Thursday, the Globe said on its Web site that it "turns out the agents might have misunderstood what was said at Wednesday's union meeting," and the reporter apologized.

Weiner said the union didn't know whether any names would be included, those with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press.

Union sources also told the New York Daily News that the union didn't know whether the final report would name names, or how many names would be named.

Union official Gene Orza told ESPN's Karl Ravech that union officials and agents have this meeting every November to lay down dates and rules for agents who are about to enter into free-agent talks and one of the subjects that came up during the meeting was the Mitchell investigation.

Orza said the only relevance the Mitchell investigation has to free agents is that the union officials wanted the agents to be aware that of those players that have filed for free agency, no more than 11 of those have been asked to speak with Mitchell.

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"Under the collective bargaining agreement between the 30 major league clubs and the players' association, any request by me for an interview with a current player must be made through their representative, the players' association," Mitchell said in a statement.

Approximately 160 players are eligible for free agency.

Many general managers at the GM meetings this week said the possibility of particular players being implicated by Mitchell would not be considered when they pursue free agents.

Mitchell, who is expected to issue his report by the end of the year, set a Saturday deadline for player interviews, one of the people said, also on condition of anonymity.

"I said at the outset of the investigation, and I've repeated several times since, that I would provide each player about whom allegations were received of the illegal use of performance-enhancing substances the opportunity to meet with me, at which time I would provide him with the information about the allegations and give him a chance to respond," Mitchell said.

The Yankees' Jason Giambi is the only active player known to have spoken with Mitchell. A second player, who was not identified, also agreed to cooperate, SI.com reported this week.

Mitchell, a former Senate Majority Leader who remains a director of the Boston Red Sox, would not comment on the Saturday deadline for player interviews.

"When that process is complete, I will evaluate all of the information that has been gathered in the investigation and will make the final decisions as to my report," he said.

Major League Baseball likely will get the report shortly before its release so it can review it and ensure it does not contain any confidential information covered by the sport's drug agreement with the union, one of the people with knowledge of the meeting said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.