Minnesota Twins right-handed pitcher Michael Pineda has been suspended for 60 games for violating MLB’s drug policy, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network. He’ll miss the remainder of the season and is not eligible for postseason play.
Per Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com, the 30-year-old Pineda tested positive for hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic on MLB’s list of banned substances. Though that diuretic itself is not a performance-enhancing drug, it is often used in conjunction with PEDs for a masking effect. ESPN’s Jeff Passan adds that Pineda was initially tagged with an 80-game ban—standard procedure for first-time offenders—but an appeal brought that number down to 60 after providing evidence that the substance in Pineda’s system was not used as a masking agent for PEDs.
After undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2017, Pineda caught on with the Twins on a two-year deal worth $10MM. Forced to sit out the entire 2018 season, Minnesota knew that it was only paying for one healthy season of Pineda, and his rebound has certainly been a respectable one. Though by no means a top-tier starter, he’s added depth to a Twins rotation that desperately needed it. He’s slotted in as the Twins third-best starter, posting a 4.01 ERA while racking up 146 innings for a playoff team. This year, he’s struck out 140 batters compared to just 28 walks, good for a clean 5.00 K:BB ratio.
His numbers have been even better over the last three-plus months, though, as it presumably took some time for the ex-Yankee to regain his feel for pitching after a lost season. Since the calendar turned to June, Pineda is sporting a sterling 3.10 ERA while striking out more than a batter per inning. During that stretch, he has indeed been the most reliable Minnesota starter.
However, that production will now be absent from any October games, with the suspension rendering Pineda ineligible for postseason play. That represents a considerable blow for the Twins, whose rotation has greatly benefited from the solid second-half presence of Pineda. Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi are an All-Star pairing, and Pineda would have given the Twins the makings of a respectable playoff rotation.
Instead, Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez will be relied upon to comprise half of that unit. Though Gibson and Perez have been valuable to the Twins in their own right, both have graded out a notch below Pineda, a disparity that could be magnified in a short series where pitching is often king. Gibson, currently on the injured list, is the more reliable of that duo: his 4.04 FIP compares favorably to Pineda’s and he owns a better track record of solid production. Perez, meanwhile, has made considerable adjustments to increase his staying power, though he still struggles with command and inconsistency. He is sporting just a 1.98 K:BB ratio to go with a 4.75 ERA.
Pineda issued a statement regarding his suspension through the MLB Players Association.