Posted on May 24, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

Chicago White Sox Welington Castillo

Image via nbcsports.com

Major League Baseball has suspended Chicago White Sox catcher Welington Castillo for 80 games after he tested positive for a banned substance. Castillo tested positive for Erythropoietin, more commonly called EPO. There will be no appeal, and Castillo’s 80-game suspension will begin immediately. Castillo’s suspension comes just over a week after Robinson Cano was hit with an 80-game suspension for a different banned substance.

EPO helps to stimulate the production of red blood cells. It can be used medicinally for treating a variety of diseases that cause anemia. As a doping agent, it’s more common with cycling and other sports that stress the cardiovascular system. It is rarely linked with baseball players. However, it is on MLB’s list of banned substances.

“The Chicago White Sox were saddened and disappointed to learn of the suspension of catcher Welington Castillo for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” White Sox GM Rick Hahn said in a statement.

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“Welington has apologized to the team and his teammates and has taken full responsibility for his actions. He understands that he has negatively affected the team and has fallen short of the expectations we have of our players. The White Sox fully support Major League Baseball’s policy and its efforts to eliminate performance-enhancing substances from our game.”

After spending last season in Baltimore, Castillo signed a two-year deal worth $15 million with the White Sox this past winter. He has served as Chicago’s primary catcher this season. Castillo is currently hitting .267 with an OPS of .774. He’s been one of the more consistent offensive catchers in baseball over the past several years. He’s been a middle-of-the-order hitter for the White Sox this season. The 31-year old backstop is also solid defensively.

At the moment, the White Sox are 16 games under .500 and 8.5 games out of first place in the AL Central. The club was not expected to compete for a playoff spot this season. If they somehow reach the postseason, Castillo will be ineligible. However, the White Sox have one of the best farm systems in baseball and could be a year or two away from getting things turned around. With a two-year deal and an option for 2020, Castillo still figures to be part of Chicago’s future.

In the short term, Castillo’s suspension puts the White Sox in a tough spot. Light-hitting Omar Narvaez will likely assume the everyday catching duties for Chicago. He’s hitting just .180 this year in limited action. The White Sox have called up Alfredo Gonzalez to serve as the back up to Narvaez. Gonzalez has no big league experience and was hitting .169 at triple-A this season. Both Narvaez and Gonzalez are huge drop-offs from Castillo offensively. Kevan Smith is also an option, although he was recently placed on the DL at triple-A.

In the long run, Castillo’s suspension should have a huge impact on the White Sox this season. With or without Castillo, they are a long shot to even be in the wild-card conversation. Castillo will likely return to his starting job when his suspension is over near the end of August. Nevertheless, it’s disappointing to see another veteran player succumb to an 80-game suspension after taking a banned substance.

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