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MLB hits Tucupita Marcano with lifetime ban for betting on baseball games

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June 04, 2024

Infielder Tucupita Marcano #16 of the San Diego Padres slides and scores against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Opening Day at Petco Park on April 1, 2021 in San Diego, California. 

Matt Thomas | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

Major League Baseball banned San Diego Padres infielder Tucupita Marcano for life for betting on the sport, officials said Tuesday, making him the first active player hit with such a penalty in more than a century.

The 24-year-old Venezuelan broke into MLB in 2021 with the Padres before he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, released and picked up by the Friars again this past off season.

He hadn’t appeared in a game this season, recovering from a knee injury.

“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,” MLB 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 bet through a legal sports book with wagers coming in two spans of time — in 2022, from Oct. 16 through Oct. 23, and again in 2023 from July 12 through Nov. 1, according to MLB.

He made a total of 387 bets on both domestic and international baseball, with 231 of those wagers on MLB action, the league said. The bets were for a total of more than $150,000 with $87,319 of that action on MLB games, the league added.

And of those MLB bets, 25 involved Pirates games while Marcano was with the Bucs, though he did not appear in any of those contests.

In fact, a “vast majority” of Marcano’s wagers “occurred during the period after he suffered a season-ending knee injury on July 24, 2023 and was receiving medical treatment,” MLB said.

The last active player kicked out baseball for gambling was New York Giants outfielder Jimmy O’Connell in 1924.

More from NBC News:

Pete Rose, MLB’s career leader in base hits, agreed to a lifetime ban in 1989 after he was found to have wagered on baseball games while managing the Cincinnati Reds.

MLB on Tuesday also announced one-year suspensions for four other players it found in violation of league gambling prohibitions.

  • Oakland A’s relief pitcher Michael Kelly was found to have bet on MLB games between Oct. 5 and 17 in 2021 when he was the triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. He wagered $99.22 in nine wagers, three of them involving the Astros.
  • Padres minor league starting pitcher Jay Groome made 32 MLB bets between July 22, 2020 and July 24, 2021 while playing for the high-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Those wagers totaled $453.74 of action.
  • Philadelphia Phillies minor league outfielder José Rodríguez made 31 baseball bets on Sept. 30, 2021 and again between June 5 and July 30, 2022. Those three wagers on college baseball and 28 on MLB totaled $749.09.
  • Arizona Diamondbacks minor league reliever Andrew Saalfrank made 28 MLB bets and one college baseball wager between Sept. 9 and Oct. 29 in 2021 and again on March 9, 2022. The bets totaled $445.87.

In the case of all five players, MLB said there’s “no evidence to suggest” that “any outcomes in the baseball games” wagered upon “were compromised, influenced, or manipulated in any way.”

A message for Rimas Sports, the agency that represents Marcano, was not immediately returned to NBC News on Tuesday, seeking comment on behalf of the player.

A rep for the Major League Baseball Players Association declined comment on Tuesday.

Minimum wage for MLB players is $740,000 this season before increasing to $760,000 next season and to $780,000 in 2026.

Major sports leagues have been walking a fine line, taking advantage of the massive popularity of sports gambling, made legal in nationwide in 2018 while also counseling athletes to stay away from wagers on their sport.

The NBA in April banned Toronto Raptors forward Jontay Porter, the brother of Denver Nuggets sharpshooter Michael Porter Jr. Jontay Porter bet on games, passed on information to gamblers and claimed illness to influence a wager, the NBA has said.

The NFL recently reinstated five players it had suspended for the 2023 season due to unauthorized gambling

— Lindsay Good contributed.

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