Red Sox minor leaguer Michael Kopech has been suspended 50 games after testing positive for the stimulant Oxilofrine, the league announced yesterday. Kopech was selected with the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 draft by the Red Sox and had been enjoying a very strong season at Class A Greenville. The right-hander has posted a 2.63 ERA with 9.7 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9 in 16 games this season (15 of them starts). As Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe notes, via Twitter, because Kopech tested positive for an amphetamine as opposed to a substance ruled to be a performance-enhancing drug (steroid) by MLB, he’d still be eligible for the minor league postseason. Oxilofrine, which is found in some dietary supplements, is said to increase adrenaline, boost endurance and assist in weight loss. In a statement released at MiLB.com, Kopech apologized to the fans and the organization. The prospect noted that he has been trying to gain weight since signing as opposed to lose it, adding that he appealed the suspension despite having little to prove his innocence because he “didn’t have any understanding of how [he] could have failed a test.” Kopech received a $1.67MM bonus in last year’s draft.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- The Yankees’ first-half success comes, in large part, due to improved health up and down the roster, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. An improved farm system and improved depth from offseason moves such as re-signing Chris Young has better positioned the team to deal with injuries than in 2013-14. Nevertheless, Sherman writes, they’re at risk in the second half. He questions how realistic it is to expect Michael Pineda to finish the season with 30-plus starts and both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to clear 600 plate appearances. Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow remains a concern, and CC Sabathia, while healthy, has been ineffective overall.
- Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet writes that while Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Jonathan Papelbon are among the biggest names that figure to be connected to the Blue Jays in the coming two weeks, history shows that GM Alex Anthopoulos looks beyond the most obvious options. Nicholson-Smith runs down a list of speculative pitching options for the Jays to pursue, including Mat Latos (who I recently profiled at MLBTR), Hisashi Iwakuma, Jesse Chavez, Mike Fiers and several more.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman tells the Post’s George A. King III that he’s comfortable being aggressive or passing on asking prices he deems exorbitant this July. Interestingly, King writes that the industry belief, at present, is that the Blue Jays would be more willing to part with top prospects to land Cueto than the Yankees would. While there are no true untouchables in the Yankees’ farm system, King adds, Aaron Judge and Luis Severino “come close” to earning that label.
- MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski finds it difficult to envision the Orioles shifting into “sell” mode, adding that the team’s current plan is to approach the deadline with a buyer’s mindset. GM Dan Duquette has previously said that the Orioles’ pending free agents have more value to Baltimore than to other clubs, Melewski notes, further suggesting that shipping out veteran players is unlikely.