Posted on September 7, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Minnesota Twins Michael Pineda
Image via cbssports.com

The Minnesota Twins look like they’re heading to the postseason in 2019. But they’ll be playing the rest of the regular season and playoffs without starting pitcher Michael Pineda. Major League Baseball announced Saturday that Pineda has been suspended for 60 games following a failed drug test. Pineda will miss the rest of the regular season and part of next season. He’s also ineligible for the postseason if the Twins make it.

The 30-year-old Pineda tested positive for a drug called Hydrochlorothiazid, which is considered a banned substance by MLB. The initial suspension was for 80 games but reduced to 60 games on appeal. Pineda argued that the drug he tested positive for is a diuretic, not a performance-enhancing substance or a masking agent. The reduction will mean Pineda will miss less time next season but will still rule him out for the rest of 2019.

“This was shocking for me to hear,” Pineda said in a statement. “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.”

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Pineda says that a “close acquaintance” gave him the medication that was purchased over the counter. He took it in hopes that it would help him manage his weight. However, he didn’t tell team doctors that he was taking it. Perhaps if he had, team doctors could have informed Pineda that the medication is banned by MLB.

Prior to getting suspended, Pineda had been a key member of Minnesota’s rotation. Despite a couple of brief stints on the IL, Pineda finished his season 11-5 with a 4.01 ERA over 26 starts. He started out the season slowly after sitting out all of 2018 following Tommy John surgery. But Pineda has come on strong lately, going 5-1 with a 3.04 ERA in nine starts since the all-star break. Based on that, Pineda was poised to be an important part of the Minnesota rotation late in the season and in the postseason.

The good news for the Twins is they have four other reliable starters who have won at least 10 games this season. Jake Odorizzi and Jose Berrios have led the rotation with both posting sub-4.00 ERAs. Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez have also been stead in the back end of the rotation. However, the Twins will have to fill Pineda’s spot for the rest of the regular season. The team’s only options are young pitchers who all made their big league debut this season.

The Twins began Saturday 5.5 games ahead of the Indians in the AL Central. Barring a terrible collapse, they should be able to hold off Cleveland without Pineda’s services the last few weeks of the season. But Pineda surely would have been in line to start a postseason game for the Twins, possibly two games in a seven-game series. His absence puts a serious debut in Minnesota’s postseason rotation, as there could be a considerable drop-off after Odorizzi and Berrios.

For Pineda personally, the suspension is a considerable setback. He’s set to become a free agent this winter and was starting to pitch his way toward a nice payday. But now he has a suspension hanging over his head and won’t be eligible to play the first month of the season. More importantly, his suspension figures to hurt the Twins down the stretch and in the playoffs.

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