Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden is part of a federal investigation into the skimming of signing bonuses given to prospects from Latin America, according to an SI.com report posted Sunday night.
The Web site reported, citing an unidentified baseball executive familiar with the investigation, that the FBI is looking at Bowden's actions as far back as 1994, when he was GM in Cincinnati.
Bowden said Monday that he has done nothing improper. "I'm innocent of any wrongdoing," he said. "Aside from that, no comment."
Last year, the Chicago White Sox fired director of player personnel David Wilder and two other scouts in the club's Latin American operation after a two-month investigation by Major League Baseball's Department of Investigations.
The White Sox said the three were dismissed "for actions in Latin America that were violations of club policy and standards" but did not elaborate.
Findings from baseball's investigation were turned over to federal authorities.
SI.com reported that two unidentified sources say that former Latin America scout Jorge Oquendo, who confirmed being contacted by the FBI to SI but denied skimming bonuses, has worked for Wilder and Bowden.
The SI.com report came a day after the Nationals announced that special assistant Jose Rijo was taking a leave of absence after an MLB investigation revealed a prospect from the Dominican Republic he discovered was older than originally thought. Rijo is a former major-league pitcher and the MVP of the 1990 World Series for the Reds.
Earlier in the week, it was announced that prospect Esmailyn "Smiley" Gonzalez lied about his age and name. Gonzalez received a $1.4 million signing bonus in 2006 when the Nationals signed what they thought was a 16-year-old shortstop.
The Nationals had been listing his date of birth as Sept. 21, 1989, which would make him 19. But Kasten said an MLB investigation determined Gonzalez is actually Carlos David Alvarez Lugo, who was born in November 1985 — meaning he is 23.
Fehr addresses steroids
Baseball union head Donald Fehr began his annual tour of spring training camps Monday with steroids back in the spotlight, even though he says the sport has "fixed the problem" since the 2003 survey that led to a report Alex Rodriguez tested positive.
Fehr said he doesn't think commissioner Bud Selig will take disciplinary action against Rodriguez, who admitted Feb. 9 that he used a banned substance from 2001-03. Rodriguez made the admission two days after Sports Illustrated reported he was on a list of 104 players who tested positive in the 2003 survey. Selig said Rodriguez shamed the sport.
"The commissioner is entitled to say whatever the commissioner wants to say," Fehr said after meeting with Florida Marlins players.
Testing in 2003 was to be confidential. Fehr rejected the suggestion all players in 2003 are under suspicion because 104 of them tested positive.
Griffey taking it slow
Seattle Manager Don Wakamatsu said Ken Griffey Jr. probably won't play in the exhibition opener Wednesday against San Diego, and he's not sure how soon the 39-year-old will be in the lineup.
Griffey had arthroscopic surgery in October.
Griffey cracked five home runs in his first batting practice with the Mariners in 10 years.
Hamilton: no dipping
Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton, who overcame problems with drug addiction to lead the American League in RBI last season, has quit using smokeless tobacco.
"You know it's bad when your 3-year-old holds up a water bottle, and asks if daddy spit in this before she drinks out of it," said Hamilton, referring to his daughter Sierra. "That's when you know it's a problem."
Smokeless tobacco has been banned in the minor leagues since 1993.
Around the majors
Cardinals: Brendan Ryan, expected to compete for the starting job at second base, has been slowed by tendinitis in his right wrist.
Nationals: Washington released disgruntled pitcher Odalis Perez a day after he failed to show up at spring training by the mandatory reporting deadline. He signed a minor-league contract that would have paid him $850,000 if he made the team.
Blue Jays: Center fielder Vernon Wells has a left hamstring injury that could sideline him most of spring training.