Ex-MLB pitcher Esteban Loaiza now faces federal drug charge

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Former Major League Baseball pitcher Esteban Loaiza is now facing a federal charge in his drug possession case.

The case against Loaiza was transferred from state to federal court Wednesday. The 46-year-old former All-Star pleaded not guilty to charges of cocaine possession with intent to distribute.

Loaiza remains in federal custody, and federal officials did not provide further comment on the case.

Loaiza was arrested during a Feb. 9 traffic stop in the South Bay, and authorities said he had a sophisticated compartment to hide contraband in his vehicle.

During a search of his rented Imperial Beach home, investigators found 20 packages of white powder believed to be cocaine and weighing a total of 44 pounds hidden inside a minivan parked in the garage.

He was initially charged with possessing drugs for sale, transporting drugs and having a hidden compartment in his vehicle.

Loaiza, who last pitched in the majors in 2008, made over $40 million in his 14-year career. He played for eight teams, with his best season coming in 2003 as a member of the Chicago White Sox when he finished second in the American League Cy Young Award voting.

His 126 career wins is the second most for a Mexican-born pitcher, behind Fernando Valenzuela.

Loaiza, a Tijuana native, attended Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach before signing a professional contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1991.

He was married to famed singer Jenni Rivera, who died in a 2012 plane crash.

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