The Ryan Braun Rules are in effect! MLB, MLBPA Announce modifications to joint drug agreement

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In the recently-completed Collective Bargaining Agreement, the league and the union agreed to make several modifications to the Joint Drug Agreement which governs drug testing, suspensions and whatnot in baseball.  They just announced that they have reached agreement on the modifications.

They’re all listed below. The ones that seem notable or major to me in bold. Many of them are designed to specifically address the Ryan Braun fiasco from this spring:

  • Adding hGH blood testing during Spring Training, during the off-season, and for reasonable cause.  The parties also agreed to study expanding hGH testing to the regular season.
  • Increasing the number of random tests during the season and off-season.
  • Modifying the Collection Procedures of the Program to clarify when collectors must deliver specimens to the courier, and how specimens should be stored prior to delivery to the courier.
  • Modifying the Appeals procedures of the Program, including the circumstances under which procedural deviations will result in the invalidation of test results.
  • Creating an Expert Panel of recognized ADD/ADHD experts to advise the Independent Program Administrator (“IPA”) on Therapeutic Use Exemption (“TUE”) applications for ADD/ADHD medications, and another expert panel of medical professionals to advise the IPA on TUE applications for other medications.
  • Strengthening the protocols for addressing use by players of drugs of abuse.
  • Permitting public announcement of the specific substance that resulted in a player’s positive test result or discipline.
  • Making players who are suspended for violating the Program prior to the All-Star Break (including during Spring Training and the preceding off-season) ineligible to be elected or selected for the All-Star Game.
  • Establishing a protocol for evaluating and treating players who may suffer from an alcohol use problem or who have engaged in off-field violent conduct.
  • Clarifying the rules for violations for use or possession of prohibited substances based on evidence other than positive test results (“non-analytical positives.”)
  • Increasing the penalties for criminal convictions for possession or use of drugs of abuse (including stimulants).

Some of these, such as the no-All-Star Game for those who test positive thing have been long sought-after. I’ll also note, building on yesterday’s post, that while there is now something for evaluating people with alcohol problems, and something about increasing discipline for drug convictions, there is nothing about DUI incidents or convictions. So close, guys!

Twins’ top prospect Nick Burdi will undergo Tommy John surgery

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Twins’ right-hander Nick Burdi is set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the team announced on Friday. Burdi made 14 appearances for Double-A Chattanooga before succumbing to a torn ulnar collateral ligament and is not expected to make his major league debut until mid-2018 at the earliest. A UCL tear doesn’t always require Tommy John surgery — less severe cases can be treated with platelet-rich plasma injections, for example — but Twins’ chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told the press that surgery was unavoidable as Burdi had sustained a “full thickness tear” in his elbow.

Entering the 2016 season, Burdi was widely considered a top ten prospect in the Twins’ system. His exceptional velocity and potent fastball-slider combo made him a fearsome relief option as he came off of his first season in Double-A Chattanooga in 2015. During the 2016 season, however, the 24-year-old experienced a significant setback after a bone bruise cut his season short in late July. Prior to Friday’s diagnosis, he appeared to be staging an impressive comeback with the Chattanooga Lookouts this spring, decorating his efforts with a sparkling 0.53 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.6 SO/9 over 17 innings.

It’s a tough break for the Twins, whose farm system was ranked 21st in the league by Baseball America. “Obviously he’s proven when he’s healthy he’s an absolute premium prospect, and the Twins are treating him that way,” Burdi’s agent, Matt Sosnick, told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “We just want to make sure everything we do ultimately leads to the goal of getting him back on the field as quickly as he can.”

Brock Holt has been shut down from game activity

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Things have gone from bad to worse for Red Sox’ outfielder Brock Holt, who was shut down “for the foreseeable future” on Friday after meeting with head trauma specialist Michael Collins. The Red Sox placed Holt on the 10-day disabled list in April after he began experiencing vertigo, the latest in a series of head injuries he’s sustained since last spring.

According to the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato, the outfielder was initially advised to attempt playing through his symptoms, but it quickly became apparent that the strategy wasn’t going to work. Now, the plan is to shut him down from any game activity in the hopes that he’ll be able to recover from all lingering symptoms before returning to the roster. Club manager John Farrell told reporters that the 28-year-old is still cleared to take batting practice and work on his defense, but won’t continue his rehab starts in Triple-A Pawtucket for the time being.

Holt had been making regular appearances for the Pawtucket Red Sox and was batting .209/.292/.372 with two home runs through 14 games this spring. This season marks his fifth run within the Red Sox’ organization. He experienced a bit of a slump at the plate in 2016 and slashed .255/.322/.383 after breaking out during his first All-Star year in 2015.

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe suggests that the team’s concern for Holt extends past his setbacks at the plate. It’s still a long road to a full recovery, and while Farrell told reporters he believes the outfielder is on track to make a return sometime in 2017, he’ll need to make sure that Holt is both physically and mentally prepared to do so.