Rob Manfred

Major League Baseball hands Welington Castillo an 80-game suspension after positive test for banned substance

Major League Baseball hands Welington Castillo an 80-game suspension after positive test for banned substance

A day after it was reported that Welington Castillo would receive an 80-game suspension for violating baseball’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, Major League Baseball made it official and announced the ban.

Castillo, the veteran catcher brought in by the White Sox this past offseason, tested positive for a banned substance, per the league’s announcement, and was handed the 80-game suspension for first-time offenders.

Castillo released a statement a few hours after the suspension was officially handed down.

“I was recently notified by Major League Baseball that I had tested positive for EPO, a substance that is prohibited under MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement,” he said. “The positive test resulted from an extremely poor decision that I, and I alone, made. I take full responsibility for my conduct. I have let many people down, including my family, my teammates, the White Sox organization and its fans, and from my heart, I apologize. Following my suspension, I look forward to rejoining my teammates and doing whatever I can to help the White Sox win.”
It was the first time since new, harsher rules were put in place in 2005 in the wake of baseball’s steroid era that the White Sox have had a major league player suspended for such an offense.

Reports Wednesday night — which came out while Castillo was playing in the White Sox game against the visiting Baltimore Orioles, his former team — indicated that Castillo did not test positive for a steroid, but rather for a non-steroid performance-enhancing drug. Baseball's announcement indicated that Castillo tested positive for Erythropoietin, a performance-enhancing substance.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn released a statement on the suspension: "The Chicago White Sox were saddened and disappointed to learn of the suspension of catcher Welington Castillo for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Welington has apologized to the team and his teammates and has taken full responsibility for his actions.  He understands that he has negatively affected the team and has fallen short of the expectations we have of our players.  The White Sox fully support Major League Baseball's policy and its efforts to eliminate performance enhancing substances from our game.”

Castillo has a key role on this White Sox team as a veteran catcher tasked with helping to develop a group of young pitchers, two of whom are seen as very important pieces of the organization’s ongoing rebuilding effort: Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. How Castillo’s 80-game absence affects their development remains to be seen. Omar Narvaez, not as adept defensively behind the plate as Castillo, will take over as the team’s No. 1 catcher.

While the White Sox work to develop a specific identity and culture through this rebuilding process, this suspension seemingly flies in the face of what manager Rick Renteria is attempting to create with his preaching of playing hard, playing the right way and giving everything you’ve got. It was Castillo who was benched earlier this week for not running to first base on a popup. Renteria has done that several times this year, and it makes one wonder how such an egregious violation of baseball’s rulebook will be handled inside the clubhouse both during and after Castillo’s suspension.

Castillo’s future is also a topic of discussion in the wake of this news. He signed a two-year deal with the White Sox during the offseason, and there’s a team option for a third. It seemed to be an addition that would act as a bridge to highly ranked catching prospect Zack Collins, who along with fellow catching prospect Seby Zavala is having a nice offensive season at Double-A Birmingham. Collins and Zavala aren’t necessarily close to hitting the major leagues, and if this suspension should change Castillo’s future with the team, perhaps it could impact those prospects’ futures, as well. Maybe Castillo wouldn’t be around to provide a veteran safety net in 2020 or whenever they reach the big leagues.

With Kevan Smith, who lost out on the backup catcher’s job in spring training, on the disabled list at Triple-A Charlotte, the White Sox brought Alfredo Gonzalez up from the minors to serve as the backup to Narvaez and take Castillo’s spot on the active roster. But it’s possible Gonzalez will be just a temporary solution until Smith returns to full health.

Could Wrigley Field soon again host an All-Star Game? Rob Manfred says they're a candidate

Could Wrigley Field soon again host an All-Star Game? Rob Manfred says they're a candidate

MIAMI — The All-Star Game could soon come to a city near you.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said on Tuesday afternoon that the Cubs are among several candidates to potentially host the Midsummer Classic when the next three sites are announced. The All-Star Game is currently booked through 2019, which means Wrigley Field wouldn’t host the event until 2020 at the earliest. Manfred prefers to announce the upcoming hosts in threes and didn’t specify a schedule for the decision.

The Cubs haven’t hosted the All-Star Game since 1990.

“We have a group of clubs that are interested,” Manfred told writers at the Baseball Writers Association of America All-Star luncheon. “We’ve moved into a much more competitive evaluation of those various bids, taking into account things like the cities’ involvement, have they built a new stadium for their club, have they done particular things that are helpful to the club, the availability of key venues, convention centers and what not. The Cubs are certainly in the mix for that next up. I’ll probably do three at once, is my current thinking. They’re certainly in that mix, but there are way more than three clubs in that mix.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly also among the candidates. Dodger Stadium hasn’t played host to the event since the 1980 season.

The 2018 All-Star Game is already scheduled for Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. while the 2019 contest will be played in Cleveland.

Addison Russell awaiting word from MLB after wife files for divorce and declines to meet with investigators

Addison Russell awaiting word from MLB after wife files for divorce and declines to meet with investigators

Addison Russell’s estranged wife has declined to meet with Major League Baseball officials, a development that could significantly hinder the investigation into an abuse allegation made against the Cubs shortstop. 

Thomas T. Field – the partner at Beermann Pritikin Mirabelli Swerdlove LLP representing Melisa (Reidy) Russell in divorce proceedings – confirmed that decision two weeks after a third-party accusation on social media triggered MLB’s domestic-violence protocols.

“I haven’t heard anything” new from MLB, Russell said, surrounded by reporters at his locker after Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field. “It’s been sticking out for a while now. I just want to get back to baseball.”

Through Facebook, WGN’s Dean Richards surfaced a press release from a local marketing firm that announced Melisa hired Field and filed for divorce in Cook County. The statement said: “It is her desire to pursue a resolution that is, first and foremost, in the best interest of the parties’ son,” hoping for closure in a “swift, amicable and private fashion.”

After his wife publicly aired their marital issues on Instagram – and a woman believed to be one of Melisa’s close friends made the explosive charge in a comment beneath the photo – Russell released this statement through the team: “Any allegation I have abused my wife is false and hurtful.”        

That Instagram post was quickly deleted as it drew more and more attention from fans, media and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who notified MLB on June 8 as part of a process that largely leaves the matter out of the club’s hands. The Cubs gave Russell that night off and told him to stay away from Wrigley Field, allowing him to collect his thoughts and explicitly framing it as not being a one-game suspension.

In these types of cases, the collective bargaining agreement grants broader disciplinary powers to commissioner Rob Manfred, even without an arrest or a prosecution. But an alleged victim’s cooperation would be crucial to the investigation.

Russell is 23 years old and coming off an All-Star season where he helped the Cubs win an epic World Series and end the 108-year drought. But from Epstein’s measured tone to manager Joe Maddon’s listening mode to the calculated comments in the clubhouse, the Cubs projected the right image, focusing only on what they know about Russell as a player, not rushing to judgments or dismissing the seriousness of the situation.

“Definitely not ignoring it,” Russell said. “I have the right support system. I have a lot of fans out there that are definitely making me feel better about the whole process. But when it comes down to it, I love playing baseball. I absolutely love this game. Whatever happens on the field, I’ll take care of it.”