Colon Out 50 games For Positive Test, Replacement to Face Rays Tonight
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — In the 2½ hours it took the Oakland Athletics to wrap up a series win against the Twins, Bartolo Colon’s belongings were removed from his locker and his nameplate taken down.
His replacement arrived from Triple-A, too.
Colon received a 50-game suspension Wednesday for testing positive for testosterone, and the A’s disconnected themselves from the former Cy Young Award winner in a hurry. He left his teammates stunned and frustrated, some angry that a guy they thought they knew would take such a risk trying to gain an edge at age 39.
The A’s now know what the Giants went through across San Francisco Bay.
What a devastating week it has been for the Bay Area’s two contending baseball teams. First, it was All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera of the Giants suspended 50 games for testosterone last Wednesday, then Colon exactly a week later for the same banned substance.
“I think the league is doing the best they can with it, and therefore the policy and program is catching people,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “I don’t know how much more you can do than that.”
Major League Baseball made the announcement of Colon’s penalty a week after suspending Cabrera.
“I apologize to the fans, to my teammates and to the Oakland A’s,” Colon said in a statement released by the players’ association. “I accept responsibility for my actions and I will serve my suspension as required by the joint drug program.”
He will miss the final 40 games of the regular season and the first 10 games of the postseason if Oakland advances that far. Any remainder of the suspension would be served in a future season, if Colon signs another major league contract.
“It’s a shock,” Oakland reliever Grant Balfour said. “He’s a guy that we’re definitely relying on right now. I guess you could say it’s bad timing any time, but especially now.”
Oakland, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006, was preparing for an afternoon series finale against Minnesota when players got the news from clubhouse televisions. A closed-door team meeting was called.
“The Oakland Athletics are disappointed to learn of today’s suspension,” the A’s said in a statement.
Starter Brandon McCarthy took that a little further.
“You can say someone’s a good teammate, but it has to extend in all facets,” McCarthy said after a 5-1 win. “Off the field, on the field and how you are in the clubhouse, no matter how you look at it, we’ve now lost a really important part of our team to his actions.”
General manager Billy Beane received word from MLB earlier Wednesday and began searching for a starter to take Colon’s turn in the rotation Thursday at Tampa Bay. Tyson Ross was called up from Triple-A Sacramento and moved into Colon’s clubhouse spot.
“It shocked all of us just the fact someone got caught for that,” Ross said.
Beane addressed the A’s in the clubhouse before the team took the field for pregame warm-ups.
“Listen, it’s disappointing. From a baseball standpoint, we’re scrambling,” Beane said. “We’re all disappointed, not just for the Giants and the A’s, but for baseball.”
Colon is 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA in 24 starts this season, his first with the A’s, and has a 171-122 record in 15 big league seasons. A two-time All-Star, the burly right-hander won the 2005 AL Cy Young Award after going 21-8 for the Los Angeles Angels.
Colon will lose the remaining $469,945 of his $2 million base salary this year. He also has earned $750,000 in performance bonuses based on starts and $150,000 based on innings, which are not affected. Thursday’s start would have earned him another $250,000, and the suspension will cost him the chance to make $850,000 in additional bonuses based on innings.
“It is what it is. We certainly don’t support the actions, but you have to move forward,” Melvin said. “You go through things over the course of the season. This is just one of them. … You have to have a short memory.”
Five players have been suspended this year under the big league drug program. San Francisco reliever Guillermo Mota was penalized 100 games in May following his second positive test and is eligible to return Aug. 28. Philadelphia infielder Freddy Galvis and free agent outfielder Marlon Byrd were suspended 50 games each in June.
In addition, a 50-game suspension of NL MVP Ryan Braun was overturned after his lawyers argued his urine sample wasn’t handled as the rules in the drug program specified at the time.
“Win at all costs in sport at every level,” US Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “Athletes and their entourages will do whatever it takes if they think they have a chance to get away with it.”
The five positive tests are the most in the major league program since there were eight in 2007.
Beane took a chance on suspended slugger Manny Ramirez earlier this year. Ramirez signed with Oakland while completing his suspension for a positive test but was released in June per his request while struggling in the minors.
“Baseball and the union have both been pretty aggressive in their approach,” Beane said.
Colon did not file a grievance a person familiar with the suspension said, speaking on condition of anonymity because that detail wasn’t announced. Also, the person said, MLB hasn’t found any links between Cabrera and Colon at this point.
World Anti-Doping Agency President John Fahey said Wednesday that he wasn’t surprised baseball officials discovered Cabrera associate Juan Nunez purchased a website and attempted to create evidence to support a claim that the outfielder inadvertently took the substance that caused the positive test.
“The fact that a well-known and highly paid athlete has attempted to avoid or reduce sanctioning for an anti-doping violation is not a surprise to WADA,” Fahey said. “What concerns WADA is the alleged elaborate scheme that Cabrera and his advisers concocted, one that involved a fake website, an email trail of fictitious orders and a nonexistent supplement product, in an effort to prove he inadvertently ingested the banned substance synthetic testosterone.”
Colon had been thankful to get a second chance with the A’s. His 10 wins are the most since his Cy Young season.
“Well, through all the changes that have been made, and all the tests, it just doesn’t make sense, let’s put it that way,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of two suspensions in an eight-day span. “We’re hoping we’re past all that.”
Colon has credited a stem-cell procedure he had two years ago for saving his career. He had fat and bone marrow stem cells collected and injected into his troublesome right elbow and shoulder in an unproven technique. Colon had no idea how it would turn out, but he responded and spent 2011 with the Yankees.
Joseph R. Purita, an orthopedic surgeon in Florida, told The New York Times last year that he flew to Colon’s native Dominican Republic and helped a team of doctors there with the treatment on Colon. He said he has used human growth hormone in the procedure before, but not in this case with the pitcher.
HGH is banned by Major League Baseball.
The Bay Area already had been shocked by Cabrera’s suspension.
“Two guys — that’s why they’ve got the policy, I guess,” Balfour said. “The guy may be innocent. You just hope there’s some mistake there.”
The A’s did welcome back starting left-hander Brett Anderson in Tuesday night’s win over the Twins following a 14-month absence because of elbow ligament replacement surgery. Beane and Melvin feel especially fortunate to have him now.
Drug-testing labs check urine for its ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, which usually is 1:1 in adult males. A 4:1 ratio is considered a positive test, but baseball officials said this week that even if there is a lower ratio, the lab conducts an isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) test. The IRMS test determines whether the testosterone is exogenous, meaning it came from outside the body.
There have been 76 suspensions this year under the minor league drug program.
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine wouldn’t address Colon’s suspension specifically, but did add, “I just wish we’d get that loss back he pitched against us.”
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York and AP freelance Writer Ken Powtak in Boston contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.