Report: MLB to begin testing for HGH

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According to Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times, MLB’s new collective bargaining agreement, which is set to be announced early next week, will include blood testing for human growth hormone (HGH).

Here are some of the details:

The bargaining agreement, which could be announced early next week, calls for blood testing to begin in February, when players report to spring training. Players who test positive will face a 50-game suspension, which will be the same as the first-time penalty for a positive steroid test, according to the two people.

If Schmidt’s report proves correct, baseball will be the first of the major North American professional sports leagues to implement blood testing for drugs among unionized players. The NFL and NFLPA tentatively agreed to test for HGH in their recent collective bargaining agreement, but the union has yet to approve testing procedures. Baseball currently has testing for HGH among minor league players because it doesn’t need the consent of a union. Former major leaguer Mike Jacobs was the first to test positive earlier this year.

It’s definitely a surprise to learn that the players have agreed to blood tests for HGH, but if MLB uses the same type of testing they have in the minor leagues, this could be as much about positive P.R. as actually catching someone. Stay tuned.

Bartolo Colon ain’t doing so hot this year

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If he wasn’t 44 years-old we’d just call it a slump, but the way Bartolo Colon is pitching right now makes you wonder if the end is nigh.

Colon was shelled this afternoon, giving up seven runs on ten hits and walking three in five innings of work to take the loss against the Pirates. That brings his ERA up to 6.96 on the year. He’s allowed five or more runs in five of his ten starts and opposing batters are hitting .320 against him. One of the big reasons he had been so effective into his 40s had been his low walk rate — he led the NL in this category for the past two seasons — but he’s walking more guys this year than last.

The Braves picked up Colon for the reasons a lot of rebuilding teams pick up veteran starters: to provide innings and stability until the younger arms of the future can mature. Colon, however, has been the weakest link of the Braves rotation.

At some point, every baseball player reaches the end. Almost all of them do it before the age of 44. One hopes, given his history and popularity that Colon is just experiencing a rough patch and that, by mid season, he’ll be reliably pumping strikes into the zone the way he has the past few seasons. But with each bad start he registers this year, that’s seeming like more and more of a stretch.

Braves designate Josh Collmenter for assignment

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Last night Braves reliever Josh Collmenter surrendered three homers and seven runs in the 10th inning of a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He came into the game when it was tied 5-5 so, yeah, ouch. Today Collmenter is on his way to no longer being a Braves reliever as he has been designated for assignment.

Collmenter made 11 appearances for the Braves, going 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in 17 innings. If he doesn’t latch on someplace else he can take heart that his final act in the big leagues was striking out former MVP Andrew McCutchen. If only he hadn’t surrendered consecutive homers to David Freese, Jose Osuna and Jordy Mercer just before that. Oh well. Take the good with the bad.

Right-hander Matt Wisler, who has been no great shakes in the bigs himself, was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett before today’s series finale against the Pirates. He’s currently throwing mopup duty for Bartolo Colon, who got shelled for seven runs in four innings.

Given how Colon is going, maybe the Braves will be thinking about some more transactions soon.