Posted on June 21, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Oakland Athletics Frankie Montas
Image via cbssports.com

A remarkable first half of the season by young Oakland Athletics ace Frankie Montas has become tainted. Montas was slapped with an 80-game suspension on Friday after testing positive for a banned substance. The 26-year-old tested positive for Ostarine, which is considered a performance-enhancing drug by MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. He will sit out the next 80 games and be unavailable for the postseason should Oakland qualify.

“While I never intended to take any prohibited substance, I unfortunately and unknowingly ingested a contaminated supplement that I had purchased over the counter at a nutrition store here in the United States,” Montas said in the statement issued by the MLB Players Association.

“That said, I respect MLB rules and understand my responsibilities under the Joint Drug Agreement, and accept full responsibility. I sincerely apologize to the A’s organization, the fans, my teammates, and my family for this mistake. My hope is to be able to return to the A’s later this season and contribute as best I can.”

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Montas says the Ostarine was part in an over-the-counter supplement he took. It may have been an honest mistake, but it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Montas had been in the midst of a true breakout season. After an up and down 2018 campaign, Montas has been sensational this year, going 9-2 with a 2.70 ERA over 15 starts. He’s become the undisputed ace in a strong Oakland rotation that has kept the A’s within striking distance of a Wild Card spot.

Unfortunately, the suspension will effectively end Montas’ season. The A’s have 86 games left, so he won’t be able to return until there are six games left in Oakland’s season. By late September, the minor league season will be over, so unless one of Oakland’s affiliates makes a deep playoff run, he won’t be able to pitch in any minor league games near the end of his suspension. That makes it unlikely that he’ll be unlikely to contribute to the A’s in those six games.

Perhaps more importantly, Montas is ineligible for the postseason. At the moment, it’s likely Wild Card or bust for the A’s. If available, Montas would probably be the preferred option to start the Wild Card Game for Oakland. However, that’s no longer a possibility, even if the A’s are able to earn a Wild Card spot for the second straight year.

The A’s will now look to carry on without their best starter. Not only does Montas leave big shoes to fill at the top of the rotation, but he also leaves an extra vacancy at the back end of the rotation. Veterans Brett Anderson and Chris Bassitt have both been solid but haven’t quite pitched at the same level as Montas. Mike Fiers has been steady as well. But beyond that trio, there are now questions about the final two spots in Oakland’s rotation.

The good news for Oakland is they may have a couple of pitchers coming back from injury. Lefty Sean Manaea, who was the team’s ace last year, is working his way back from shoulder surgery and could pitch in a minor league game soon. Top-prospect Jesus Luzardo nearly made the big league club out of spring training before he was sidelined by a shoulder injury. However, he’s back pitching in the minors and could be an option the second half of the season.

Of course, the A’s can’t count on Manaea or Luzardo pitching at the level Montas has this season. Acquiring an ace via trade before the trade deadline also seems unlikely. In short, it’ll be next to impossible for the A’s not to notice the absence of Montas the rest of the season. Accident or not, Montas getting suspended just dealt a huge blow to Oakland’s playoff chances.

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