FORT MYERS, Fla. — Boston Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright will sit out the first 80 games of the season after testing positive for Human Growth Hormone, a second suspension for the knuckleballer who missed 15 games last year for violating baseball's domestic violence policy.
Wright said in a statement issued through the Major League Baseball Players Association that he learned of the positive test during the off-season.
"Although I do not dispute the validity of the test, I was shocked as I have never intentionally ingested anything for performance-enhancing purposes," the statement said. "I have fully co-operated with MLB and will continue to try and identify the source of the result."
The commissioner's office said the 34-year-old Wright tested positive for Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide 2 (GHRP-2). He is the second player under the big league program to test positive for HGH, which baseball has screened for in blood tests since 2013.
"While we are disappointed by the news of this violation, we will look to provide the appropriate support to Steven at this time," the Red Sox said in a statement.
"Obviously disappointed," Cora said. "It's something that we didn't expect. We'll adjust."
Wright was arrested on Dec. 8, 2017, at his home outside Nashville, Tennessee, and charged with domestic related assault and prevention of a 911 call, both misdemeanours. The Boston Globe reported prosecutors retired Wright's case contingent on him completing an anger management course, refraining from violent contact with his wife, and incurring no new criminal charges for a year.
A starter for most of his career and an All-Star in 2016, Wright spent the bulk of last season in the bullpen, going 3-1 with a 2.68 ERA in 20 games. In addition to the 15-game suspension, he also missed all of April recovering from knee surgery and then went back on the disabled list with knee inflammation and missed all of August.
He was originally on the roster for the first-round playoff series against the New York Yankees, but told manager Alex Cora before Game 1 that his knee was bothering him. Wright did not appear in the post-season, when the Red Sox won their fourth World Series since 2004, and he had surgery on his left knee Nov. 12.
"I never thought it'd ever come down to this. I respect the joint drug treatment program. Unfortunately we couldn't figure out how this particular substance got into my system," Wright told reporters at the team's spring training complex. "At the end of the day, it falls on me to try to prevent that. And unfortunately somewhere it got into my body and I don't know how. But it is what it is and I've just got to move on from it.
"That's what's frustrating about it. I worked my butt off this off-season since getting the surgery. I feel like I'm in a good spot. From an off-season drug test, this comes up. I've been dealing with it."
Wright is ineligible to play in any post-season games this year and will lose about half his salary of $1,375,000. Last year's suspension cost him $94,624 of his $1.1 million salary.
The only other player to test positive for growth hormone under the big league program was Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Josh Ravin in 2016. Four players have tested positive for growth hormone under the minor league program since 2015.
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