FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox will be without knuckleballer Steven Wright for nearly half the regular season and the entire postseason, as Major League Baseball announced Wednesday the righty was suspended 80 games without pay after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.
Wright tested positive for Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide 2 (GHRP-2), a violation of the league's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program. His suspension will be effective at the start of the 2019 regular season.
One of the conditions of MLB’s drug policy is that players who are suspended aren’t eligible for the postseason. The first game Wright will be eligible to pitch for the Red Sox will be June 24, the season’s 81st game.
“It’s unfortunate,” Wright said following Wednesday’s 6-1 loss to the Pirates. “I never thought it would come down to this, but I respect the Joint Drug Treatment Program, and unfortunately, we couldn't figure out how this particular substance got into my system. At the end of the day, it falls on me to try to prevent that. Unfortunately, somewhere it got into my [system]. I don’t know. It is what it is, and I just have to try to move on from it.”
The Red Sox were hoping Wright could be an important part of their bullpen this season, but there were no certainties as he continues to be bothered by a problematic left knee that he had surgery on two years ago.
Before news of the suspension was released on Wednesday, Wright hadn’t been cleared to do anything beyond play catch off flat ground.
“Obviously disappointed, you know?” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “But we'll give the player the support that he needs. He's still part of the organization. That's all I can say about it. I mean, obviously it's something that we didn't expect, but we'll adjust.”
This is the second consecutive season that will start with Wright on the suspended list. He opened 2018 by accepting a 15-game suspension for violating MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.
“I mean, it’s one of the things, it’s a distraction. People that know me, I try to stay as quiet as I can, as far as things from the outside,” said Wright. “It’s unfortunate that two years in a row, it’s a distraction now. That’s something that I’ve always prided myself on, being a good teammate.
“Unfortunately, this is not a good way to start the season. It is what it is. I can’t change anything. All you can do is keep moving forward. I feel like I’ve got enough support from the team that, it’s going to be a grind, but there’s no way I’m not going to get through it.”
Wright said Wednesday that he initially became aware of the positive test at some point during the offseason, he thinks after Christmas. He went through the appeals process, but he was unsuccessful. Wright informed the Red Sox last week that a suspension could be coming.
“Regardless, even if I could figure out how it got into my system, it still falls on me to prove that it was unintentional, and unfortunately, I can’t,” Wright said. “I don’t know where it came from. But I respect the program. I think it’s a great thing for the game. I’m just going to serve the suspension and utilize the time off to try to get healthier.”
The Red Sox issued a statement in response to Wright's suspension.
"The Boston Red Sox fully support Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and its efforts to eliminate performance-enhancing substances from the game," the team said in its statement. "While we are disappointed by the news of this violation, we will look to provide the appropriate support to Steven at this time. Going forward, the club will not comment further on the matter."
Wright missed large portions of the past two seasons due to left knee injuries, including the Red Sox's run to the World Series last fall. The 34-year-old right-hander made 20 appearances in 2018, four of them starts, with a 2.68 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings.
“I’ve been in this game 12, 13 years. Even when I did all the drug tests this offseason, not one time in my mind did I think this would ever be possible,” Wright said. “I feel like I’m pretty careful, but I guess I’m not careful enough. At some point, it did enter my system, and it ended up showing up on a test. It’s unfortunate, but it did. The burden falls on me ultimately.”