Blue Jays prospect Martinez suspended for 80 games

June 23rd, 2024

CLEVELAND -- On Friday night, Blue Jays No. 2 prospect fulfilled a lifelong dream by recording his first MLB hit in his debut against the Guardians.

On Sunday, he received an 80-game suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing substance Clomiphene, Major League Baseball announced.

Later that day, Martinez's teammates suffered a 6-5 loss to the Guardians to finish an 0-6 week as Toronto continued to lose ground in the American League standings.

“We’re in a tough stretch right now,” manager John Schneider said after the Blue Jays were swept at Progressive Field.

There were enough contributing factors to that even before the news about Martinez came out.

The 22-year-old Martinez found out about the suspension on Saturday night and immediately informed Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins and Schneider.

“Extremely disappointed and surprised,” Atkins said pregame in Cleveland. “We fully support the program and want a level playing field, and we’ll work with him to ensure he’s learned from this. Obviously, a big mistake. We'll support him when he returns and through the process.”

Martinez said in a statement that he had been prescribed a fertility drug by a doctor in the Dominican Republic during the offseason that resulted in the positive test. Atkins said he believed the test occurred before Martinez joined the Blue Jays in Toronto earlier in the week.

"... I took full responsibility for my actions and accepted my suspension," Martinez said. "I want to apologize to my teammates in both Buffalo and Toronto, the Blue Jays organization, and most importantly, the fans who have supported me during my career."

The Blue Jays, like every team in baseball, work with both MLB and the MLB Players' Association to help educate international players on the league’s rules surrounding performance-enhancing drugs and banned substances. The Blue Jays also have their own internal program that adds supplemental education surrounding both topics.

“I feel like there’s a lot of it in place to ensure that all of it has been downloaded by Orelvis,” Atkins said. “I think this actual experience is the true learning for him, but I think it’s continuing to focus on ways that he can improve as a human, player and teammate, and there’s lots of opportunity for that throughout our structure.”

The suspension comes at the worst possible time for the Blue Jays (35-42), who have now dropped eight of their past 10 games. The team hoped that Martinez, who was hitting .260 with 14 home runs and 46 RBIs with Triple-A Buffalo, would provide some much-needed pop to a lineup that’s hit the third-lowest amount of homers in MLB.

“In difficult times, you’ll see a lot of finger-pointing and excuse-making. Fortunately, we haven’t seen that, which gives us the confidence that we can still get it turned around,” Atkins said. “We’ve had a big setback over the last five days [and] we’ve dug ourselves into a little bit of a deeper hole. There’s still time for us to turn things around; it’s dependent on a winning streak, obviously, but we’re still capable of that.”

The Blue Jays were able to generate some power on Sunday, hitting three home runs (two from Spencer Horwitz in his first career multi-homer game), but their pitching -- which had previously been their rock -- let them down again.

Yusei Kikuchi labored for the second straight start, allowing four runs and eight hits over two innings before being knocked out of the game by a 40-minute rain delay. Zach Pop and Brendon Little couldn't hold off the Guardians' lineup, either, and the Blue Jays' ninth-inning rally ended on a George Springer forceout to leave runners on first and second.

When the Blue Jays take the field for their series opener against Boston on Monday, they’ll do so a season-high seven games under .500 and 15 1/2 game back in the AL East.

“These guys understand we’ve got another tough series in Boston, but you’ve got to keep going,” Schneider said. “These guys are doing it; it’s a tough stretch.”

Schneider described his reaction to Martinez’s suspension as “surprised and disappointed,” but the skipper said that he was happy with the amount of maturity that the 22-year-old showed about the suspension.

“He knows he made a mistake and we’re going to support him through it,” Schneider said. “The fact he’s taken responsibility for it is a good first step. … He’s a young kid but he understands he made a mistake.”

Martinez won’t be able to play with any of the team’s affiliates while he’s suspended, and he will spend that time at one of the Blue Jays' facilities. His suspension will be over on Sept. 23 -- five days before the regular season ends.

As Atkins was addressing the media, a clubhouse attendant packed up Martinez’s bag of gear and disappeared into the bowels of the stadium. Five days ago, the arrival of that equipment in Toronto signaled a hopeful sign of things to come.

“We know the fans' disappointment and we share that,” Atkins said. “It has been a very difficult time when you have those expectations and you’re not fulfilling that.”