CHICAGO -- White Sox catcher Welington Castillo received an 80-game suspension without pay after testing positive for Erythropoietin (EPO), a performance-enhancing substance, in violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball made the announcement Thursday morning.
Castillo, 31, issued the following statement through the Major League Baseball Players Association in regard to the suspension.
"I was recently notified by Major League Baseball that I had tested positive for EPO, a substance that is prohibited under MLB's Joint Drug Agreement. The positive test resulted from an extremely poor decision that I, and I alone, made. I take full responsibility for my conduct. I have let many people down, including my family, my teammates, the White Sox organization and its fans, and from my heart, I apologize. Following my suspension, I look forward to rejoining my teammates and doing whatever I can to help the White Sox win."
The White Sox brought in Castillo via a two-year, $15 million free-agent deal, with an $8 million club option for 2020, as an integral part of the club's rebuild. He was set up to work with young pitchers such as Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer, to name just a few, as well as young catchers such as Zack Collins and Seby Zavala.
The presence of a reliable veteran behind the plate like Castillo, who is hitting .267 with six home runs and 15 RBIs with $7.5 million 2018 salary, enabled the White Sox to avoid rushing Collins and Zavala's development. According to general manager Rick Hahn, who spoke to the media Thursday, Castillo sought him out as well as manager Rick Renteria when he found out the news Wednesday night.
"He said it was a priority for him to apologize to his teammates, which he did earlier this morning," said Hahn, who referred to Castillo's apologies as "extremely heartfelt." "He certainly has stood up and accepted responsibility for his actions. It doesn't change the fact that it's disappointing."
"Obviously it's a little bit of a blow for us, a young man who knows he made a mistake, and I think he'll learn from it," Renteria said. "It doesn't change how I feel about him. This kid, I've had him before, and this too shall pass, as they say, and we'll move on."
Renteria's comments were echoed by Castillo's teammates. When Castillo returns in late August, he will be accepted back as part of the family. He's the first White Sox Major Leaguer to be suspended under the Joint Drug Agreement.
"It's a really difficult moment for all of us, our organization and for Weli," said White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu through interpreter Billy Russo. "I spoke with him in the morning and he was very … hurt. But we're human beings and we make mistakes. It's up to us to move forward and to learn from them. He has our support. It's a tough situation for all of us, our organization, for him and for me."
"We have a really good relationship," White Sox second baseman Yolmer Sanchez said. "He's my friend, and when he wants, I'll be here for him."
"I'm just going to support him as a family," said Omar Narvaez, the new White Sox starting catcher. "We all make mistakes."
Alfredo Gonzalez was added from Triple-A Charlotte to move into Narvaez's backup role. Kevan Smith (Triple-A Charlotte) and Zavala (Double-A Birmingham) represent future backstop options who are currently on the disabled list.
Hahn admitted to not enjoying much of Wednesday's 11-1 victory despite it being one of the most exciting White Sox games of the season. While Hahn and the White Sox have run the full range of emotions with the suspension, it ultimately might serve as an important cautionary tale for younger players.
"That's a very clear lesson to take away from this," Hahn said. "It's the importance of being fully aware of what you're doing and seeking out the right advice before you take any actions in the outside world about trying to help yourself.
"Players bear full responsibility for what they do regardless of intent or understanding of exactly what they are doing, which again makes it a very strong and effective program we support. But it's a reminder to everyone in that clubhouse and throughout the league to be diligent about what you are doing."