OAKLAND, Calif. – Former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon of the Oakland Athletics was suspended for 50 games Wednesday after testing positive for testosterone.
Major League Baseball made the announcement one week after All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera of the San Francisco Giants received a 50-game suspension following a positive test for the same substance.
"I apologize to the fans, to my teammates and to the Oakland A's," Colon said in a statement released by the players' association. "I accept responsibility for my actions and I will serve my suspension as required by the joint drug program."
He will miss the final 40 games of the regular season and the first 10 games of the postseason if Oakland advances that far. Any remainder of the suspension would be served in a future season, if Colon signs another major league contract.
"It's a shock," Oakland reliever Grant Balfour said. "He's a guy that we're definitely relying on right now. I guess you could say it's bad timing any time, but especially now."
Oakland, which hasn't made the playoffs since 2006, began Wednesday a half-game out in the AL wild-card race. The A's were preparing for an afternoon series finale against Minnesota when they got the news from clubhouse televisions. A closed-door team meeting was called.
"The Oakland Athletics are disappointed to learn of today's suspension," the team said in a statement.
General manager Billy Beane received word from MLB earlier Wednesday and began searching for a starter to take Colon's turn in the rotation Thursday at Tampa Bay. Tyson Ross will be called up from Triple-A Sacramento. Beane addressed the A's in the clubhouse before the team took the field for pregame warmups.
"Listen, it's disappointing. From a baseball standpoint, we're scrambling," Beane said. "We're all disappointed, not just for the Giants and the A's, but for baseball."
The 39-year-old Colon is 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA in 24 starts this season, his first with the A's, and has a 171-122 record in 15 big league seasons..
A two-time All-Star, the burly right-hander won the 2005 AL Cy Young Award after going 21-8 for the Los Angeles Angels.
Colon will lose the remaining $469,945 of his $2 million base salary this year. He also has earned $750,000 in performance bonuses based on starts and $150,000 based on innings, which are not impacted. Thursday's start would have earned him another $250,000, and the suspension will cost him the chance to make $850,000 in additional bonuses based on innings.
Manager Bob Melvin hadn't spoken to Colon as of late morning Wednesday.
"It is what it is. We certainly don't support the actions, but you have to move forward," Melvin said. "You go through things over the course of the season. This is just one of them. ... You have to have a short memory."
Five players have been suspended this year under the big league drug program. San Francisco reliever Guillermo Mota was penalized 100 games in May following his second positive test and is eligible to return Aug. 28. Philadelphia infielder Freddy Galvis and free agent outfielder Marlon Byrd were suspended 50 games each in June.
In addition, a 50-game suspension of NL MVP Ryan Braun was overturned after his lawyers argued his urine sample wasn't handled as the rules in the drug program specified at the time.
Beane took a chance on suspended slugger Manny Ramirez earlier this year. Ramirez signed with Oakland while completing his suspension for a positive test but was released in June per his request while playing for Triple-A Sacramento.
"Baseball and the union have both been pretty aggressive in their approach," Beane said.
Colon had been thankful to get a second chance with the A's. His 10 wins are his most since his Cy Young season.
"Well, through all the changes that have been made, and all the tests, it just doesn't make sense, let's put it that way," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of two suspensions in an eight-day span. "We're hoping we're past all that. Unfortunately there's been some mistakes made and they're going to pay. That's the system: You pay for your mistakes. It's to protect baseball and more than anything else to protect the players from doing something harmful to themselves.
They're going to pay and get their suspensions and we'll go from there, and hopefully people will learn a little bit more about right and wrong."
Colon has credited a stem-cell procedure two years ago for saving his career. He had fat and bone marrow stem cells collected and injected into his troublesome right elbow and shoulder in an innovative and unproven technique. Colon had no idea how it would turn out, but he responded and spent 2011 with the Yankees.
Joseph R. Purita, an orthopedic surgeon in Florida, told The New York Times last year that he flew to Colon's native Dominican Republic and helped a team of doctors there with the treatment on Colon. He said he has used Human Growth Hormone in the procedure before, but not in this case with the pitcher.
HGH is banned by Major League Baseball.
Purita said he has treated several professional athletes over the years, including players for the Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers, and the NFL's Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins, and has never provided any of them with HGH.
Colon signed in January to join a rotation that lost two top pitchers in the offseason. All-Star left-hander Gio Gonzalez got traded to Washington, while Trevor Cahill was dealt to Arizona. Closer Andrew Bailey is also gone, sent to Boston in late December.
The Bay Area had already been shocked at the suspension of Cabrera only a week earlier before getting word of Colon's positive test for the same performance-enhancing drug.
"Two guys -- that's why they've got the policy, I guess," Balfour said. "The guy may be innocent. You just hope there's some mistake there."
The A's weren't interested in discussing Colon's situation as they try to return to the playoffs for the first time since being swept by the Tigers in four games of the '06 AL championship series. Oakland did welcome back starting left-hander Brett Anderson in Tuesday night's win over the Twins following a 14-month absence because of elbow ligament replacement surgery.
Drug-testing labs check urine for its ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, which usually is 1:1 in adult males. A 4:1 ratio is considered a positive test, but baseball officials said this week that even if there is a lower ratio, the lab conducts an isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) test if there is an abnormality. The IRMS test determines whether the testosterone is exogenous, or came from outside the body.
There have been 76 suspensions this year under the minor league drug program.