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Originally published July 9, 2010 at 8:33 PM | Page modified July 10, 2010 at 2:25 PM

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Josh Lueke, a minor-league pitcher acquired by the Mariners, faced rape and sodomy charges last summer

Josh Lueke, one of four players sent to Seattle in the Cliff Lee trade, faced rape and sodomy charges last summer in Bakersfield, Calif. He pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of false imprisonment with violence, and was sentenced to 40 days in jail.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik insists his front office did its due diligence looking into the criminal past of one of the four prospects he acquired in Friday's trade of Cliff Lee.

Josh Lueke, 25, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-handed relief pitcher in Class AA, faced rape and sodomy charges in Bakersfield, Calif., last summer, but later pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of false imprisonment with violence. Lueke was sentenced to 40 days in prison, but was freed with time already served after agreeing to the plea bargain.

"We take this stuff very seriously," Zduriencik said. "And all of the questions that we asked all of the (Rangers) officials over there, they assured us that the issues were none that they had any concern about as they moved forward, and for the last couple of years, he's been a model citizen."

Pleading no contest carries the same legal weight as a guilty plea, but sentencing is often more immediate and less harsh.

Lueke was arrested and jailed last year after a police investigation into a May 2008 incident in which a woman met several minor-league players after attending a Bakersfield Blaze Class A game. She accompanied them to bars afterward and then to an apartment shared by Lueke and a teammate.

She said she passed out, and when she awoke the next morning, articles of her clothing were missing.

On May 27, 2009, Lueke was arrested and charged with rape and sodomy. The probable cause statement for arrest stated that semen found on the victim was a DNA match for Lueke.

He was jailed on $150,000 bail and remained there until his plea deal was struck.

Lueke had maintained that he was out partying with the woman and his teammates but that he never raped or had sex with her.

The Rangers placed Lueke on their suspended list, but reinstated him last summer after his plea deal.

This season, he has held opponents to a combined .209 batting average in Class A and AA, while striking out 62 batters in 38-1/3 innings. He throws a mid-90s fastball and also a slider and splitter.

"According to everything they told us and everything they've given us ... it's an issue that's cleared and it's behind him," Zduriencik said.

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com.

Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners

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