Lasorda: Teams signed 50 illegal players

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Angry that Los Angeles could lose third baseman Adrian Beltre, Dodgers senior vice president Tommy Lasorda says teams have signed dozens of underage players.

Angry that Los Angeles could lose third baseman Adrian Beltre, Dodgers senior vice president Tommy Lasorda says teams have signed dozens of underage players.

"I bet you there's 50 ballplayers in the major leagues that have signed illegally," Lasorda said Tuesday during a news conference honoring one of his former players, New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine.

Beltre's agent, Scott Boras, last week asked the commissioner's office to declare his client a free agent because he was 15 when the Dodgers signed him.

Baseball rules allow teams to sign only players 16 and older.

Los Angeles was fined $200,000 earlier this year for signing two underage Cubans, who were declared free agents.

Lasorda compared the situation to signing Cuban defectors, some of whom have turned out to be older than they claim. For example, legal papers show that New York Yankees pitcher Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez is 34, not 30.

"The two Cubans we signed, what did we do differently than Joe Cubas, who brings these guys in from those countries?" Lasorda said, referring to an agent for many Cuban players.

Defectors usually establish residency outside the United States and Canada so they are not subject to baseball's amateur draft and are declared free agents.

Cubas did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

Lasorda, the Dodgers' general manager when Beltre was promoted to the major leagues, said that if Beltre is declared a free agent, the Dodgers should be reimbursed for the time and effort it took to prepare the player.

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