MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins starter Michael Pineda received a 60-game suspension on Saturday for testing positive for hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic in violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, as announced by the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball.
The suspension will go into effect immediately and rules Pineda out for the remainder of the regular season and for the playoffs.
“We were disappointed to learn of the suspension of Michael Pineda for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program," said the Twins in a statement. "We fully support Major League Baseball's policy and its efforts to eliminate banned substances from our game. Per the protocol outlined in the Joint Drug Program, the Minnesota Twins will not comment further on this matter.”
"It’s definitely challenging to lose him," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "Michael Pineda is a big member of this team in a lot of different ways, beyond the field as well as on it. Because of that, it does create a challenge. Our team has been pretty resilient with everything that’s been thrown at it to this point, and I think we’re going to have the ability to acknowledge this and process what’s going on and still continue to go out there and do our jobs."
In a statement released through the Major League Baseball Players Association, Pineda issued an apology to Twins fans, his family, his teammates and to the organization.
"I mistakenly took a medication that was given to me by a close acquaintance, who obtained it over the counter and assured me it would safely help me manage my weight," Pineda's statement read. "I ingested a few of these pills without the consent of the Twins' training staff."
According to a report by MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal, an arbitrator heard Pineda's appeal and reduced the penalty to 60 games from the usual standard of 80 games for a first offense.
Section 8.B.4 of the Joint Drug Agreement between MLB and the MLBPA stipulates that an arbitration panel can reduce a suspension "if a player proves by clear and convincing evidence that he bears no significant fault or negligence for the presence of the of the Performance Enhancing Substance in his test result."
"This was shocking for me to hear," Pineda's statement continued. "I never intended to cheat the system, other players or opposing teams. While I am pleased that the arbitrator found there was clear and convincing evidence to reduce my discipline, I realize that I am ultimately responsible for what goes in my body and therefore respect the 60-game suspension that remains."
Pineda had been arguably the most consistent member of the Minnesota starting rotation since May, and his strong second half has been a significant factor in the Twins' ability to put some distance between themselves and the Indians. Pineda was 5-1 with a 3.06 ERA in nine starts since the All-Star break, and the Twins had won four of his last five starts.
Pineda allowed one run in six innings and recorded a season-high 10 strikeouts in Minnesota's loss to the Indians at Target Field on Friday night.
In his first season on the field following a recovery from Tommy John surgery, Pineda's consistency had been an important part of why the Twins' rotation entered Saturday ranked fourth in the American League with 14.2 WAR, according to FanGraphs.
The loss of Pineda also reduces the margin for error in the Twins' starting corps down the stretch and into the postseason in light of Jose Berrios' and Martin Perez's struggles with consistency and Kyle Gibson's ongoing battle with ulcerative colitis. Pineda would almost certainly have slotted into a prominent role in a playoff rotation.
Instead, the Twins are now left with a glaring hole in what had largely been a healthy, productive starting rotation for much of the season. Minnesota's top five starters -- Berrios, Gibson, Perez, Pineda and Jake Odorizzi -- had started all but eight of Minnesota's 141 games this season.
"I think if anything, what this does, really, is just creates opportunities for somebody else," said Sergio Romo. "We've got a lot of quality arms here, too. Guys that are just waiting for that opportunity. Guys maybe not with as proven of a track record but still quality arms. No pushovers. Just next in line, let's go."
"When you see yourself going through this, it either can put you down pretty bad or you can step up," said Nelson Cruz. "I think somebody has to step up for him."
Now, the Twins might need to rely more heavily on younger pitchers like Lewis Thorpe, Devin Smeltzer or Randy Dobnak -- all of whom made their Major League debuts this season -- in more meaningful roles. Baldelli did not offer any specifics for what the plan might be in the short term but suggested that the club will remain flexible among "several good options."
"One thing that we’ve been able to do is look to different guys to pick each other up, and we’ve talked about that since Spring Training," Baldelli said. "It’s been a very consistent way of doing things here. Guys have continued to fulfill their end of the obligation. You don’t know who it’s going to be. You don’t know how it’s going to play out. But our guys have found a way."