A's dealt blow with Laureano's suspension

Melvin: A's 'shocked' by 80-game suspension, but 'we have to move on'

August 7th, 2021

OAKLAND -- In the midst of a battle to maintain their current grasp of a playoff spot, the A’s will have to try to finish the job while missing one of their stars for the rest of the 2021 season.

The office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced Friday that A’s outfielder has received an 80-game suspension without pay for testing positive for Nandrolone, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The suspension is effective immediately.

“I would never knowingly ingest any banned substance and put the game that I've loved all my life at risk,” Laureano said in a statement, via the MLB Players Association. “When I found out that I tested positive for Nandrolone, I was shocked. I take great care of my body and have an extremely regimented diet. Based on the minuscule amount that was briefly in my body, I've learned that it is likely that it was a contamination of something I ingested.

“I have been educated about PEDs through the RBI program and Baseball Factory while growing up. I know I don't need any of that to perform on the baseball field. All my athletic success has come from my hard work, focus and dedication to the game.

“I'd like to apologize for the distraction that this might cause my teammates, Billy Beane, David Forst, and the entire Oakland organization, community and fan base. I am devastated. Anyone who truly knows me as a person knows how much I love the game and that I would never intentionally do something like this.”

With 53 games left in the regular season beginning with Friday’s three-game series opener against the Rangers at the Coliseum, Laureano’s suspension will carry into the start of 2022. Any postseason games the A’s play will count toward the 80 games, according to Forst, the A's general manager.

Laureano had been going through a position change over the past week, switching from center to right field to accommodate Starling Marte’s arrival in a trade with the Marlins on July 28. After getting off to a slow start upon returning from the injured list on June 15, he appeared to be heating up at the plate, entering Friday batting .308 (16-for-52) with seven doubles over his last 13 games.

For the season, Laureano’s 14 homers are tied for second-most on the club. Though the 27-year-old outfielder’s current .246/.317/.443 slash line was well below his career average, he still brought a heavy impact on defense with his tremendous arm strength and penchant for making highlight-reel catches.

There’s also a leadership aspect at work as well, which is perhaps the most important. With Laureano absent, the A’s lose a clubhouse captain who brings energy to the team on a daily basis.

“I think everybody was shocked,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “These things aren’t fun. Ramón is beloved in our clubhouse. You have to abide by the rules. Everybody knows him. Unfortunately, we’re in the position that we are right now.”

Forst said Laureano was “pretty emotional” when speaking with him on Friday morning after the club received official word of the suspension.

“He was upset,” Forst said. “He feels like he let people down. We all know he wears his heart on his sleeve. Since he let us know, most of what has come from him has just been emotional.”

For as tough as a blow as it is to deal with, the A’s will have to move on quickly. Entering Friday, Oakland held a 1 1/2-game lead for the second American League Wild Card spot and trailed first-place Houston by four games in the AL West. The focus remains on making it four straight years of postseason baseball, even if that playoff action would come without Laureano in the mix.

“You can’t sit around and reflect on it for a while,” Melvin said. “Everyone feels bad for what happened for him. We have to play with the pieces that we have. We still have good ones. He is a tough one to lose.

“There’s an emotional level that he brings that guys will have to step up and fill. But we have to move on, regardless.”

What’s next?
In the immediate aftermath of Laureano’s suspension, the A’s recalled outfielder Seth Brown from Triple-A Las Vegas to fill his spot on the 26-man roster. As far as how the club goes about aligning the outfield, a collaborative effort is likely. Mark Canha, who has spent most of the year playing left, got the start in right on Friday night, with utility man Josh Harrison shifting to left. Between, Harrison, Canha, Brown and Stephen Piscotty, the A’s have plenty of outfield depth to choose from.

“We have several guys that are going to play,” Melvin said. “Harrison can play the outfield. We’ll try to get the best lineup on a particular day. We have guys that can cover the position.”