Bye Bye Byrdie – Tribe Outfielder Suspended Again for PED Use

The thin Cleveland Indians outfield has taken another substantial hit and for the second time in the first half of the 2016 calendar, it comes via a performance enhancing drug suspension.

At the start of spring training, it was potential starting center fielder Abraham Almonte who got flagged for the use of a banned substance and was lost for 80 games. Now, it is a guy whose opportunity to continue his MLB career came in part because of that same PED suspension, Marlon Byrd, who has reportedly failed a second PED test in his career.

The news, which is never exactly a positive report to receive, comes at the worst time for the Indians, who remain without starting left fielder Michael Brantley and are in the midst of a tough homestand. First reported via Twitter by Cleveland Scene’s Vince Grzegorek just before noon on June 1, it would be the second PED suspension for Byrd in his career and would knock him out for a full season’s worth of games, potentially spelling the end of the 38-year-old’s career. MLB on Fox reporter Ken Rosenthal indicated in a tweet that Byrd did not appeal the ruling, per sources.

Byrd was previously shelved by the league for 50 games in 2012 while a free agent after testing positive for Tamoxifen, a medicine that prevents the estrogen hormone’s effects on the body. It was commonly used to treat breast cancer and was also a masking agent for steroid users to prevent the growth of breast tissue. He had known and open ties to Victor Conte, the man at the center of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) steroid scandal.

Both at the time and in the time since, Byrd was open regarding his use of the drug.

“I made an inexcusable mistake,” he shared in a statement in 2012 through the Major League Baseball Players Association. “Several years ago, I had surgery for a condition that was private and unrelated to baseball. Last winter, I suffered a recurrence of that condition and I was provided with a medication that resulted in my positive test. Although that medication is on the banned list, I absolutely did not use it for performance-enhancement reasons.”

He had started that season with the Chicago Cubs before being traded to the Boston Red Sox towards the end of April. He was released in June that season by the Red Sox, less than two weeks before the announcement of his failed drug test.

Byrd joined the Indians later than most for spring training, signing at the end of the third week of March on a minor league contract with a non-roster invite to camp in Goodyear, Arizona. He hit .290 with six doubles and a pair of walks in eleven games and made the club as a reserve outfielder.

He appeared in 34 games for the Indians this season, hitting .270 with five homers, six doubles, and 19 RBI. He had hit safely in eleven of his last 14 games and had a four-hit game on Monday against his former club, the Texas Rangers.

In an official statement* from Byrd, he shared the following:

Today, I have accepted a 1 year suspension by Major League Baseball. Recently, I was notified that I had tested positive for Ipamorelin, a peptide prohibited by the JDA. In 2012, I tested positive for the medication Tamoxifen, which I was using on the advice of a physician for a medical condition resulting from surgery, and I accepted my suspension without challenge. Since that time, I have paid close attention to the substances that are banned by the Joint Drug Agreement, as I had no intention of taking any banned substances. I relied upon a medical professional for assistance and advice with respect to the supplements that I was taking. However, certain supplements I was taking were not on the NSF Certified for Sports list, and therefore, I assumed certain risks in taking them. When I learned that I had tested positive for Ipamorelin, I retained the services of private counsel and an independent chemist to determine the origin of the Ipamorelin test result because I never knowingly ingested Ipamorelin. After an extensive investigation by my lawyers and an independent chemist, it was concluded that the most likely source of Ipamorelin was a tainted supplement. 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.

Byrd was playing in his 15th MLB season. He was a tenth round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1999 draft and reached the Majors as a September call up in 2002. He has also played for the Nationals, Mets, Pirates, Reds, and Giants throughout his career, in addition to the aforementioned Rangers, Cubs, and Red Sox, and was an All-Star with Chicago in 2010.

The Indians outfield, with Brantley still on the 15-day disabled list, consists of Rajai Davis and Lonnie Chisenhall as regular workers, with utility guys Jose Ramirez and Michael Martinez also seeing significant time in the outfield this season.

The club announced in a press release* Wednesday afternoon that Tyler Naquin was recalled from Triple-A Columbus. The contract of left-handed reliever Tom Gorzelanny was purchased from the Clippers and he was added to the 25-man and 40-man rosters, the latter of which was in Byrd’s vacated spot. Reliever Shawn Armstrong was optioned back to Columbus to make room in the Cleveland bullpen.

Photo: Brian Blanco/Getty Images


*editor’s note: official statement from Byrd and roster moves announced at 2:45 PM were added in after the original posting of this story

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