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Archive for Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Devastated’ Rincon appeals

May 4, 2005

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— Suspended Minnesota Twins reliever Juan Rincon was "devastated" to hear he had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and insisted Tuesday that he never would intentionally put his career in jeopardy.

Penalized 10 days on Monday for the violation, the right-hander -- one of baseball's best setup men -- asked the players' union to file a grievance over the ban. Paperwork was submitted Tuesday, union chief operating officer Gene Orza said.

Wearing his pregame warmup uniform and standing next to general manager Terry Ryan, Rincon took no questions from reporters after reading a prepared statement about 31/2 hours before Minnesota played Cleveland at the Metrodome.

Though the wording was vague, Rincon indicated he hadn't knowingly taken a banned substance. That's the message his teammates got, at least.

"I really don't think Rincon took steroids or whatever you want to call it," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "If he did, he probably would've told us by now."

Citing the pending grievance, everyone was reluctant to divulge details. Under baseball's new policy that began last month, steroids and other performance-enhancing substances are the only drugs to draw a 10-day suspension. Baseball officials and the union agreed they would not disclose the exact substance for which a player tests positive.

"Baseball is my life, and I was devastated after becoming aware that I tested positive for a violation of major league baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program," Rincon said. "The details are confidential, and I have asked the players' association to challenge the suspension.

"What I can share with you today is that I would never knowingly compromise my position within Major League Baseball or jeopardize my relationship with the Minnesota Twins organization or the relationships that I enjoy with my teammates.

"I will make no further comments, or answer any questions, until the process plays out in its entirety. However, I will add that I look forward to returning to the field to continue pitching to the best of my ability to help the Twins organization win its fourth consecutive division title."

Rincon will leave Thursday for Fort Myers, Fla., and participate in extended spring training before he's eligible to be reinstated for the May 13 game against Texas.

"Juan's a standup guy," Ryan said. "We've got to try to put this behind us."

Unlike suspensions for on-field conduct, drug-related suspensions are not held up pending a hearing. Among the five players suspended thus far for violating the major-league drug-testing program, Texas Rangers minor-league pitcher Agustin Montero also filed a grievance.

Though the new policy has brought mostly support from those close to the game, some players are concerned that it's confusing.

Tampa Bay outfielder Alex Sanchez, the first of five players who have been punished so far, blamed his positive test on a supplement he bought over the counter before it was classified as a controlled substance in January.

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