Noelvi Marte suspended 80 games for PED violation

March 8th, 2024

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A promising young career was put on pause and the Reds' crowded infield picture became at once more clear and more complicated Friday with the news that has been suspended 80 games without pay by Major League Baseball for violating the league's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program.

Marte, rated by MLB Pipeline as the No. 1 prospect in the Reds' system and No. 21 in all of MLB, tested positive for Boldenone, a banned anabolic-androgenic steroid. His suspension is effective at the beginning of the 2024 regular season. Marte, who was not made available to reporters, can return to the Reds' complex for extended Spring Training and will have a Minor League rehab assignment available to him.

As a result of the suspension, Marte will not be eligible for the 2024 postseason roster, should the Reds advance.

"He's gonna be greatly missed," manager David Bell said. "I believe in Noelvi Marte. He's going to get through this. When he does, it's going to be behind him. When he does come back, he's going to be welcomed back with open arms, and it's going to be over."

Bell said Marte, a 22-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, spoke to the team Friday to inform his teammates about his suspension.

Last season, Marte hit his way onto the Reds' roster, slashing .316/.366/.456 in 123 plate appearances in the Majors. That put him in position to potentially receive the bulk of starts at third base this season.

Now, the Reds' offseason signing of veteran Jeimer Candelario to a three-year, $45 million deal, looks all the more important in 2024. The 30-year-old Candelario, who slashed .251/.336/.471 in 140 games with the Nationals and Cubs last season, figures to see more time at the hot corner than the Reds' originally forecast.

“Noelvi is one of the most special guys here,” Candelario said. “It’s just really sad news. We’re here to support him and be there for him, for sure. … For me, right now, I’m just concentrating on the moment. Wherever David Bell needs me, I will be there for him. But right now, I’m just trying to support my teammate.”

This also opens up the possibility of Spencer Steer, who was being steered more toward outfield duty in light of the Candelario acquisition, seeing more time at third, where he made 42 starts last season in the midst of a strong campaign that earned him sixth place in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. And 2021 Rookie of the Year Jonathan India, who was set to make his Cactus debut Friday after dealing with plantar fasciitis early in camp, is another option at third as he takes on a utility role this season.

In other words, the Reds have options. But the blossoming Marte was one of their best ones, and losing him had Bell clearly crestfallen.

Bell, who called the suspension of Marte "very emotional," declined to speculate on what the news means for third base.

"It doesn't feel like the right time," Bell said. "To start looking at the details of what it means for our roster and stuff, I just haven't thought about it, to be able to comment."

After a slow start to camp while nursing a hamstring issue suffered in the Dominican Winter League, Marte had gone 3-for-10 with a double, a steal and two runs in four Cactus games. He is the first Reds player to be suspended for PED use since right-hander Vladimir Gutierrez also received an 80-game suspension in 2020.

The first game Marte will be eligible to return from his suspension is June 21 against the Pirates.

"The Reds fully support Major League Baseball's drug policy and its penalties," the team said in a statement. "We will have no further comment."