McKirahan receives 80-game PED suspension
Braves reliever tested positive for ipamorelin before team acquired him
ATLANTA -- Left-handed reliever Andrew McKirahan drew the ire of some of his Braves teammates on Sunday afternoon when he revealed that he had tested positive for a banned substance and would consequently spend most of the next three months serving a suspension.
McKirahan received an 80-game suspension on Monday for testing positive for ipamorelin, a performance-enhancing substance whose usage is in violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
"We are disappointed in the decision Andrew made," Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said. "We are disappointed for him and for the ballclub. This was a guy who was beginning to pitch meaningful innings for us. The guys have been grinding. This was not good for the club."
According to a source familiar with the situation, McKirahan apologized to his teammates on Sunday and informed them that he believed the banned substance might have been within a cream he applied to his arm during Spring Training.
McKirahan's positive test was performed in March, before the Braves claimed him off waivers from the Marlins on April 2, multiple sources said.
Some of the veterans acted unfavorably to the revelation because the acquisition of McKirahan had essentially taken a Major League roster spot and service time away from left-handed reliever Brady Feigl, who is currently on Triple-A Gwinnett's disabled list with a left elbow ailment that might require Tommy John surgery.
"I am extremely sorry for letting down the Atlanta Braves organization, my coaches, teammates and the Braves fans," McKirahan said in a statement released by the MLB Players Association. "I also sincerely apologize to my family, who has helped me reach this point in my career. This is in no way a reflection of my character or morals. I will work hard during my suspension and pray that everyone will find it in their hearts to forgive me. I hope to have the privilege and opportunity to return to the Atlanta Braves later this season, to earn back their trust and to do everything possible to contribute to the success of the organization."
Atlanta is currently quite thin in the bullpen. Shae Simmons underwent Tommy John surgery in February and fellow right-hander Arodys Vizcaino received an 80-game suspension earlier this month because he tested positive for a banned substance (stanozolol). Hart said the club would search externally for a left-handed reliever. But with attractive options likely limited at this point of the season, lefty relievers Ian Thomas or Donnie Veal might soon get promoted from Gwinnett's roster.
"You'd like to think you have an endless supply of pitching, but at some point, all of this cuts into your depth," Hart said. "Getting that depth piece will be the challenge for us in the short term."
After being selected by the Marlins in December's Rule 5 Draft, McKirahan came to Spring Training knowing he would likely begin the season at the Major League level or be sent back to the Cubs, who left him unprotected in that Draft.
The Braves claimed McKirahan off waivers knowing they would have to carry him on their active roster throughout the season or offer him back to the Cubs. That requirement will not apply while the 25-year-old is suspended.
McKirahan had never pitched above the Double-A Minor League level before this season. Though he made just three appearances through Atlanta's first 12 games, his potential value was displayed when he retired the only two batters he faced in the seventh inning of Sunday's win against the Blue Jays.