May 2, 2005
St. Paul, Minn. — Major League Baseball began conducting random tests on its players for performance-enhancing drugs, such as steroids, in March. So far this year, four other players have been found in violation of the policy.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan says several Twins have been tested, but he says Rincon is the first Twin ever found in violation of the league's drug policy.
"I was informed today that Juan tested positive for banned substance. So he'll be on the restricted list for 10 days," Ryan says. "We'll replace him with Scott Baker and Juan will be under the suspension list. Under the rules of suspension he can stay with the club, but can't participate once we get done with pregame."
During the suspension, Rincon will miss nine games and won't be paid. Rincon will make $440,000 this year. He stands to lose $24,000 in salary during his suspension, and several thousand more in potential bonuses. Rincon's agent Ed Setlik says his client is more concerned about the damage to his reputation.
"Rincon has been a pro for nine years with the Twins organization. He's had a sterling reputation up to this point," Setlik says.
Setlik declined to give details about the grounds of the appeal. But he says he understands that the process likely won't begin until after Rincon has served all 10 days of the suspension.
"I don't know what they found with Juan Rincon," says Bert Blyleven, a former Twins pitcher. "I'm not here to judge him. If he's appealing it, he feels that whatever he took was not steroid use. I don't know."
Blyleven, who is also a color commentator for Twins television broadcasts, says Rincon is a good pitcher because he's a competitor who wields a powerful fastball. He says if, indeed, Rincon violated the league's drug policy then he deserves the 10-game suspension.
News of Rincon's violation comes a few days after baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced a proposal to get even tougher on steroids. Selig wants the league to adopt a policy that would increase the first-time violation from 10 days to 50 days, and institute a lifetime ban for a third violation.
Blyleven says the players are just as eager as the commissioner to rid the game of steroids. But he says Selig's proposal is too strict.
"Baseball just put a policy in order this spring. They just came to an agreement. All of a sudden he wants to change it and make it more harsh. I think it's way out of line," says Blyleven. "I think the process they have now that's in place -- they have to give it time to see if it works."
Rincon has been a valuable member of the Twins pitching staff. Last year he was 11-6, with an earned run average of 2.63. This year, Rincon is 2-1, with an ERA of 2.25 over 12 appearances.
Rincon's suspension will end on May 12. Twins officials say he can return to play on Friday May 13, when the team takes on the Texas Rangers at the Metrodome.