PITTSBURGH -- Pirates reliever Edgar Santana received an 80-game suspension without pay after testing positive for Boldenone, a performance-enhancing substance, in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Santana, 28, sat out all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He was effective in his return to the mound this spring, striking out four batters over five perfect innings. The Pirates hoped the right-hander would bolster the back end of their bullpen if he was able to stay healthy this year, but now they’ll be without him until 2021.
“The Pirates are disappointed to learn of today’s news that Edgar Santana has received an 80-game suspension as a result of a violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” general manager Ben Cherington said in a statement. “Because of the confidentiality requirements of the Program, we will not have further comment on this matter.”
In 2018, Santana emerged as a legitimate late-inning reliever by posting a 3.26 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with 54 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings over 69 appearances. He last pitched on Sept. 21, 2018, and underwent Tommy John surgery after the end of that season.
During a conference call with reporters on Sunday, Cherington said Santana would have been a part of their 60-man player pool had he not been suspended. The Pirates did not fill his spot in the player pool after receiving the news on Sunday, and Cherington suggested they will take their time doing so.
“Rather than rush through that today, we’ll take a little time and consider the options, internally and perhaps externally, for that spot,” Cherington said. “There’s no real rush to do that. We’ll continue to consider all the options.”
Santana was officially optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis on March 20, but he presumably would have had a chance to crack their Opening Day bullpen with rosters expanded to 30 players.
The Pirates believe they are equipped to handle the season without Santana, however, as Cherington and manager Derek Shelton have cited bullpen depth as a strength of their team. Keone Kela will enter camp as their closer, and the Bucs’ setup options include Kyle Crick, Richard Rodríguez, Michael Feliz and Nick Burdi. They have up-and-coming arms as well in relief prospects Blake Cederlind and Nick Mears, among others.
“If we look at the roster in total, the total group of players between Pittsburgh and Altoona, I think we feel in a relative sense that relief pitching, bullpen is a relative area of depth and a strength of the team,” Cherington said. “And we still feel that way today.”
This is the Pirates’ second PED suspension of the year, as Minor League utility man Pablo Reyes -- who made his big league debut in September 2018 -- received an 80-game suspension in February after testing positive for Boldenone.