MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Minnesota Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco has been suspended for 80 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, a big blow to a team that has made a series of roster-enhancing moves throughout the offseason and into spring training.
The commissioner’s office announced Sunday that Polanco tested positive for Stanozolol, becoming the sixth player to be banned this year under the major league drug program. That’s already one more than last season.
Polanco started 127 games at shortstop last year for the Twins, finishing with a .256 batting average, 13 home runs, 13 stolen bases and 74 RBIs in his first full season as a regular in the lineup. His grandfather died in June, and the switch-hitting 24-year-old struggled through the early part of the summer until being benched temporarily in late June.
From Aug. 1 through the rest of the season, though, he hit .316 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs over his last 55 games while taking over the No. 3 spot in the batting order and helping the Twins reach the AL wild-card game.
Without Polanco, the Twins will turn to Eduardo Escobar, who has played more shortstop for the team than anyone since 2014. Their signing of 12-year veteran Erick Aybar to a minor league contract last month could also pay off, with another experienced option for the middle infield while Polanco is out.
The Twins issued a statement expressing disappointment with the news and support of Major League Baseball’s drug prevention and treatment program. They said the organization would have no further comment.
Polanco, in a statement released by the players’ union, said he didn’t realize he’d taken a banned substance.
“I now know, however, that my intention alone is not a good enough excuse and I will pay the price for my error in judgment,” Polanco said. “The substance that I requested from my athletic trainer in the Dominican Republic and consented to take was a combination of vitamin B12 and an iron supplement, something that is not unusual or illegal for professional athletes to take. Unfortunately, what I was given was not that supplement and I take full responsibility for what is in my body.”
Polanco said “every bone in my body wants to appeal this suspension,” but out of respect for Twins officials, coaches and teammates he decided to withdraw his request for an appeal and begin serving the suspension from the start of the regular season.
“My hope is that through this extremely disappointing situation other players will learn from my mistake,” Polanco said. “I hope that those who have believed in me, those within the Twins organization, my teammates, and the fans in Minnesota and in the Dominican Republic will accept my sincere apology. I will continue to train hard every day in the hopes of being able to contribute to winning baseball games with the Twins later this year.”
Twins starting pitcher Ervin Santana, also a native of the Dominican Republic, received an 80-game suspension for Stanozolol in 2015.
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