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Caminiti Dead at 41

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From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Ken Caminiti, the 1996 National League most valuable player who later admitted using steroids during his major league career, died Sunday. He was 41.

Caminiti died of a heart attack in the Bronx, said his agent-lawyer Rick Licht. The city medical examiner’s office said an autopsy would be performed today, spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said.

“I’m still in shock,” San Diego Padre General Manager Kevin Towers said. “He was one of my favorite all-time players.”

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Said Padre owner John Moores, who was in tears after hearing the news: “I’m absolutely devastated. I don’t know what to make of it.”

Moores said he had spoken to Licht a few days ago about a possible job for Caminiti as a minor league coach in 2006. Caminiti served as a spring training instructor for the Padres this season.

The three-time All-Star third baseman often was in trouble the last few years. His 15-year big league career ended in 2001, five seasons after he led the Padres to a division title and was a unanimous pick for MVP.

On Tuesday, he admitted in a Houston court that he violated his probation by testing positive for cocaine last month, and was sentenced to 180 days in jail.

But state District Judge William Harmon gave Caminiti credit for the 189 days he already served in jail and a treatment facility since he was sentenced to three years probation for a cocaine arrest in March 2001.

In May 2002, Caminiti told Sports Illustrated that he used steroids during his MVP season, when he hit a career-high .326 with 40 home runs and 130 RBIs.

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Licht said Caminiti was in New York this past weekend to help a friend but did not go into detail.

“Man, that’s just a tough one. I played with him for eight years,” Dodger outfielder Steve Finley said. “He was a great player, but he got mixed up in the wrong things -- taking drugs. It’s a sad reminder of how bad drugs are.”

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