CLEVELAND -- Marlon Byrd cleaned out his locker at Progressive Field and packed up his belongings on Tuesday night. After receiving a phone call from manager Terry Francona late in the evening, the veteran outfielder promised he would explain everything in the morning.
The Indians then received some jarring news on Wednesday, when Byrd received a 162-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug and Prevention Program for the second time in his career. Byrd will miss the rest of this season and part of the next one, but when he stood before his Cleveland teammates on Wednesday, reality sunk in for the 38-year-old.
"Basically, he told the guys that his career is over," Francona said. "And this is not how he wanted it to end. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of criticism of the situation, but it doesn't take away that we care about him. We care about our team, but we also care about the individuals. So that hurts. It feels like we got kicked in the stomach a little bit."
• How does Byrd's suspension impact Indians?
MLB announced on Wednesday that Byrd was suspended after testing positive for the growth hormone secretagogue Ipamorelin, a performance-enhancing substance that is banned under the league's program. In 2012, Byrd was hit with a 50-game punishment for Tamoxifen, a drug used for breast-cancer treatment that can also be used to reduce the side effects of steroid use.
Byrd is the third player to receive a 162-game ban from MLB, joining Alex Rodriguez (2013) and Jenrry Mejia ('15).
Byrd met privately with Francona and Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti on Wednesday morning before addressing his teammates and coaches. The outfielder did not make himself available to reporters, but he did release a statement through the MLB Players Association, indicating that he would not appeal the suspension.
"I have accepted a one-year suspension by Major League Baseball," Byrd said. "Recently, I was notified that I had tested positive for Ipamorelin, a peptide prohibited by the JDA. In 2012, I tested positive for the medication Tamoxifen, which I was using on the advice of a physician for a medical condition resulting from surgery, and I accepted my suspension without challenge. Since that time, I have paid close attention to the substances that are banned by the Joint Drug Agreement, as I had no intention of taking any banned substances.
"I relied upon a medical professional for assistance and advice with respect to the supplements that I was taking. However, certain supplements I was taking were not on the NSF Certified for Sport list, and therefore, I assumed certain risks in taking them. When I learned that I had tested positive for Ipamorelin, I retained the services of private counsel and an independent chemist to determine the origin of the Ipamorelin test result, because I never knowingly ingested Ipamorelin.
"After an extensive investigation by my lawyers and an independent chemist, it was concluded that the most likely source of Ipamorelin was a tainted supplement. I alone am responsible for what I put in my body, and therefore, I have decided to forgo my right to an appeal in this matter and accept the suspension. I apologize for any harm this has caused the Cleveland Indians, Indians fans, my teammates and most importantly, my family."
Antonetti was asked if he believed Byrd's explanation.
"It's impossible for us to know, honestly," Antonetti said. "There's really only one person who knows what transpired, and in this case, that's Marlon. I think our job is to deal with the reality, and for us, that's the impact it has on our team and our organization, which is: Marlon is not going to be playing for us for the balance of this year. So how do we move forward without him?"
This is the second suspension for an Indians outfielder this season.
During Spring Training, center fielder Abraham Almonte received an 80-game ban for testing positive for Boldenone, which is classified as an anabolic steroid. Almonte has 30 games remaining on his suspension before being eligible to rejoin the Indians.
Multiple Indians players declined comment when approached about Byrd's suspension.
In light of the development with Byrd, Cleveland recalled outfielder Tyler Naquin from Triple-A Columbus. The Indians also purchased the contract of lefty reliever Tom Gorzelanny, who assumes the 40-man roster spot vacated via Byrd's suspension. In order to add Gorzelanny to the active roster, the Indians optioned right-handed reliever Shawn Armstrong to Columbus.
"We have a really professional group of guys," Antonetti said, "that have learned how to handle adversity over the course of the last few years. Adversity comes in a variety of different forms. This is just one other opportunity to come together as a team and overcome it."
Byrd was signed to a Minor League contract by the Indians on March 18 and won a spot on the Opening Day roster. As part of his one-year deal, Byrd was scheduled to earn a base salary of $1 million (plus a possible $2.5 million through incentives) this year. He hit .270 with five home runs, 19 RBIs and a .778 OPS, while playing left and right field in 34 games.
Byrd has played in 15 Major League seasons for the Phillies, Rangers, Cubs, Nationals, Mets, Giants, Pirates, Red Sox, Reds and Indians. He was a free agent, after being released by Boston, at the time of his previous suspension four years ago.
"We did considerable work and due diligence on him as a teammate and a professional," Antonetti said, "and ultimately felt that it was worth the risk. To Marlon's credit, he actually came in and fit in very well with our team, got along with the players, made a positive impact on the field and in the clubhouse.
"Obviously, this is an unfortunate [situation]. So that's why this was especially unfortunate to learn of the suspension."