ATLANTA — Injured New York Mets closer Jenrry Mejia was suspended for 80 games April 11, the fourth player in 16 days banned under the major league drug program following a positive test for the steroid Stanozolol.
Minnesota pitcher Ervin Santana, Seattle pitcher David Rollins and Atlanta pitcher Arodys Vizcaino also have been disciplined in recent weeks for Stanozolol, which is sold under the name Winstrol and is popular with body builders.
A person familiar with the penalties told The Associated Press that MLB has not yet found any links to the four positive tests. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe is ongoing.
Asked whether the Major League Baseball Players Association was worried there was a connection to the four positive tests for Stanozolol, union spokesman Greg Bouris said: “We are always concerned when there’s a positive test, regardless of the substance.”
Mejia will lose $1,134,426 of his $2,595,000 salary because of the suspension.
“It’s disappointing not only for him and his career but for us as a team,” Dillon Gee (0-1) said after taking the loss in the April 11 5-3 defeat to Atlanta.
Mejia began the season as New York’s closer while Bobby Parnell completes his recovery from Tommy John surgery, but Mejia couldn’t get loose while warming up during the April 6 opener at Washington.
He was placed on the 15-day disabled list April 8 with posterior elbow inflammation, without having pitched in a game. His time on the DL counts toward suspension.
“We’re very disappointed, extremely disappointed,” Mets Manager Terry Collins said. “We came into this whole thing in spring training with huge expectations and the back end of our bullpen being very, very strong, so we’re all shocked and disappointed.”
The 25-year-old Mejia released a statement through the players’ union saying he knows the rules and accepts his punishment, but “can honestly say I have no idea how a banned substance ended up in my system.”
Mejia apologized to the organization, his teammates, fans and family while also maintaining his innocence.
“I have been through a lot in my young career and missed time due to injury,” Mejia said. “I have worked way too hard to come back and get to where I am, so I would never knowingly put anything in my body that I thought could hold me out further.”
The Mets issued a boilerplate statement of support for MLB’s drug program.
“We’ll have to regroup and get through the next 80 games with somebody else,” Collins said,
Mejia began 2014 as a starter but moved to the closer role about six weeks after Parnell tore an elbow ligament in the first game of the season. The right-hander from the Dominican Republic had 28 saves, 18 after the All-Star break to tie for second-most in the NL.
“I’m going to be honest — I love this kid,” Collins said. “We challenged this guy last year and he stepped up for us and did a great job for us. This is a big disappointment.”
Parnell is expected to return next month. “The one thing we aren’t going to do — we aren’t going to rush him back,” Collins said of Parnell. “I just think it’s unfair.”
Jeurys Familia is the team’s closer for now. “The guys who are here are going to have to pick it up and get the job done,” Collins said.
By George Henry. AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum and AP freelance writer Amy Jinkner-Lloyd contributed to this report