CLEVELAND — Marlon Byrd’s second strike with performance-enhancing drugs cost him a full season — and his career.
The Indians veteran outfielder was suspended 162 games without pay by Major League Baseball on Wednesday after testing positive for Ipamorelin, a growth hormone releasing peptide.
It’s Byrd’s second violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Shortly after he was released in 2012 by Boston, Byrd served a 50-game suspension for testing positive for Tamoxifen, a medication used by body builders but also to treat breast cancer.
In 2014, MLB increased its penalty for a second offense from 100 games to a full season.
Byrd packed his belongings following a loss to Texas on Tuesday night, but he didn’t tell the team about his suspension until he called manager Terry Francona on Wednesday morning. Later, he spoke to his teammates as a group in Cleveland’s clubhouse.
“Marlon stood up in front of everybody and took responsibility and apologized,” Francona said. “And, basically, he told the guys that his career is over and this is not how he wanted it to end. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of criticism of the situation, but it doesn’t take away that we care about him. We care about our team, but we also care about the individuals. So, that hurts.
“It feels like we got kicked in the stomach a little bit.”
Byrd is the second Cleveland outfielder to be suspended for PED use this season. Abraham Almonte, who was expected to open the season in centerfield, was slapped with an 80-game suspension during spring training.
Byrd released a statement, saying he had no intention of taking a banned substance and consulted with “a medical professional” for advice on what he could take since his suspension four years ago. He realized certain supplements he was ingesting were not approved, and he thinks he took a tainted supplement.
“I assumed certain risks in taking them,” he said. “I alone am responsible for what I put in my body, and therefore, I have decided to forgo my right to an appeal in this matter and accept the suspension. I apologize for any harm this has caused the Cleveland Indians, Indians’ fans, my teammates, and most importantly, my family.”
A third suspension for Byrd would result in a lifetime ban. In February, Mets pitcher Jenrry Meija became the first player to receive that sanction. Byrd, Meija and Yankees star Alex Rodriguez are the only players to receive full-season suspensions.
Even if he’s able stay clean, at 38, Byrd is unlikely to return to playing.
He signed a one-year, $1-million contract as a free agent in March with Cleveland, which needed veteran outfield depth because both leftfielder Michael Brantley and rightfielder Lonnie Chisenhall were recovering from injuries.
Byrd has been productive, batting .270 with five homers and 19 RBIs in 34 games — mostly against lefthanders. He went 4-for-4 with a homer on Monday night against the Rangers, and then struck out three times in a loss Tuesday night.
Indians president Chris Antonetti said the team did not act rashly in signing Byrd, knowing his checkered past.
“We spent a lot of time working through that,” he said. “It had been three years at that point since he had the positive test. And he had been tested a lot of times. We did considerable work and due diligence on him as a teammate and a professional, and ultimately felt that it was worth the risk. To Marlon’s credit, he actually came in and fit in very well with our team, got along with the players, made a positive impact on the field and in the clubhouse. Obviously, this is unfortunate.”
Byrd broke in with Philadelphia in 2002. He was an All-Star in 2010 with the Chicago Cubs, one of 10 teams for which he’s played. Following his first suspension, Byrd signed with the Mets in 2013.
To replace Byrd on the roster, the Indians recalled outfielder Tyler Naquin from Triple-A Columbus, but it’s possible the club will look to add another outfielder through a trade.