NEW YORK - Minnesota Twins pitcher Juan Rincon, who emerged last season as one of baseball’s top setup men, became the highest-profile violator of Major League Baseball’s new policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Rincon was suspended Monday for 10 days after testing positive for an undisclosed substance, the fifth player to be suspended this season.
Michael Weiner, general counsel of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said a grievance would be filed Tuesday. But unlike other penalties, such as for fighting, suspensions under this policy take effect immediately and are not delayed pending a hearing.
“Suffice it to say, he was devastated and stunned by the result,” Rincon’s agent, Ed Setlik, said after speaking with Rincon, who is 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 12 appearances this season.
The 26-year-old Venezuelan didn’t immediately return a message left on his cell phone. Minnesota was off Monday, but the team said he would make a brief statement to the media at the Metrodome before Tuesday night’s game against Cleveland.
“He feels like he’s let the team down,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.
According to Setlik and Gardenhire, Rincon is allowed to work out with the team but must leave the stadium once games begin. He’ll miss nine of them, with eligibility restored May 13 against Texas.
Rincon, who is making $440,000 this season under terms of a two-year contract he signed during spring training, will forfeit $24,044 in salary. The penalty also will hurt Rincon’s chances to earn bonuses of $10,000 for appearing in 68 games, $20,000 for 73 games and $30,000 for 78 games.
Last season, he went 11-6 with two saves and a 2.63 ERA in 77 appearances, emerging as one of baseball’s best relievers.
Four lesser-known players previously received 10-day bans: Tampa Bay outfielder Alex Sanchez, Colorado outfielder Jorge Piedra, Texas minor league pitcher Agustin Montero and Seattle minor league outfielder Jamal Strong.
Under the new policy that began last month, steroids and other performance-enhancing substances are the only drugs to draw a 10-day suspension. Baseball officials and the players’ union agreed they would not disclose the exact substance for which a player tests positive.
“I think they need to tell people what the suspension is for,” Boston slugger David Ortiz said, “because people see a name on the screen and think he must be doing the same things as Canseco when he really took some ephedra instead of andro. Those aren’t the same thing.”
Under baseball’s new plan, ephedra is listed as a drug of abuse, which draws a different kind of penalty than the one Rincon got.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia — whose team played against Rincon when the right-hander helped preserve Minnesota’s 4-2 victory over Los Angeles on Saturday — said he isn’t satisfied with the reliever’s punishment.
“He’s still going to have the benefits,” Scioscia said Monday night in Seattle. “In 10 days, I guarantee you Juan Rincon doesn’t become a mere mortal.”
Baseball's steroid scandal