Saturday afternoon Major League Baseball announced Minnesota Twins right-hander Michael Pineda has been suspended 60 games after testing positive for Hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic and common masking agent for performance-enhancing drugs. The suspension begins immediately.
"We were disappointed to learn of the suspension of Michael Pineda for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program," the Twins said in a statement. "We fully support Major League Baseball's policy and its efforts to eliminate banned substances from our game. Per the protocol outlined in the Joint Drug Program, the Minnesota Twins will not comment further on this matter."
According to multiple reports, Pineda was originally suspended the standard 80 games, but the suspension was reduced to 60 games on an appeal. Pineda's side made a compelling case that he did not use Hydrochlorothiazide to hide PED use.
Pineda released the following statement soon after the suspension was announced:
"I'd like to begin with my sincere apologies to the Twins organization, the fans, my teammates, and my family for my error in judgment.
"I mistakenly took a medication that was given to me by a close acquaintance, who obtained it over-the-counter and assured me it would safely help me manage my weight. I ingested a few of these pills without the consent of the Twins' training staff. Testing revealed trace elements of a substance called Hydrochlorothiazide, which is a banned diuretic under baseball's testing program.
"It was shocking for me to hear. I never intended to cheat the system, other players, or opposing teams. While I am pleased that the arbitrator found there was clear and convincing evidence to reduce my discipline, I realize that I am ultimately responsible for what goes in my body and therefore respect the 60-game suspension that remains. I hope that I can be an example to others about how important it is to check with experts before taking any substance from an outside source."
The Twins have 21 games remaining this season, so Pineda will have to serve the final 39 games of his suspension next season. He will be a free agent this winter and balance of the suspension will undoubtedly affect his market.
Pineda, 30, signed a two-year contract worth $10 million with Minnesota in December 2017. He had Tommy John surgery in July 2017 and spent the 2018 season rehabbing. Pineda has a 4.01 ERA with 140 strikeouts and an impressive 5.00 K/BB ratio in 146 innings this season.
Pineda is the fourth major-league player suspended for PEDs this season, joining Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright, Athletics righty Frankie Montas, and Mariners utility man Tim Beckham. Here's what you need to know about Pineda's suspension and the ramifications for the Twins.
What is Hydrochlorothiazide?
Typically, Hydrochlorothiazide is used to treat high blood pressure. It is on MLB's banned substance list because it can also be used as a masking agent for PEDs. Pineda's suspension was reduced from the standard 80 games to 60 games because he successfully argued he did not take the drug to mask PED use.
On #MNTwins’ Pineda, who was just suspended 60 games for using a diuretic. Source says an arbitrator heard his appeal and chose to invoke the mitigation provision of the drug program, reducing penalty to 60. First offense normally is 80. Ineligible for postseason.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) September 7, 2019
Hydrochlorothiazide itself is not a performance-enhancer. It's something that can be taken to hide PED use though, which is why it is on MLB's banned substance list.
Pineda is not eligible for the postseason
Pineda's suspension will span two seasons, but, even if it didn't, he would not be eligible to pitch this postseason. The collectively bargained Joint Drug Agreement says any player suspended for a banned substance is not eligible to play in the postseason that year. And no, postseason games do not count against toward the suspension. It's 60 regular season games.
Although Pineda will serve most of his suspension next season, he will be eligible to play in the 2020 postseason. The suspension was announced this year and thus the postseason ban applies to this year and this year only. It doesn't carry over to next year like the suspension itself. Whichever team signs Pineda as a free agent this winter will be able to use him in October.
What does this mean for the Twins?
Minnesota came into Saturday with a 5 1/2-game lead over the Indians in the AL Central. SportsLine puts their division odds at 95.9 percent and their postseason odds at 99.8 percent. Barring a collapse, the Twins will play in the postseason this year.
Pineda was likely to start a postseason games for the Twins before the suspension. Minnesota's rotation depth chart currently looks like this:
- RHP Jose Berrios
- RHP Jake Odorizzi
- RHP Kyle Gibson (on injured list with ulcerative colitis)
- RHP Michael Pineda (suspended)
- LHP Martin Perez
- RHP Randy Dobnak
- LHP Devin Smeltzer
It's unclear whether Gibson will return this season or be able to start once he does return., possibly due to fatigue, creating a little uncertainty going forward. Berrios and Odorizzi are likely to start the first two games of the postseason. As of right now, Perez would have to start the third game, with the fourth starter up in the air.
The Twins don't necessarily need Pineda to reach the postseason. They're already in good shape to do that. He had been their best starter the last few weeks though -- Pineda had thrown 53 1/3 innings with a 3.04 ERA since the All-Star break -- and now he won't be available for October. That's a potentially devastating blow for a team not blessed with much impact pitching depth.