Major League Baseball suspends four minor leaguers for using drugs

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Update: There was a fifth player suspended: Royals minor league pitcher Arnaldo Hernandez will sit 50 games after testing positive for methamphetamines, per Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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Major League Baseball suspended four minor league players on Thursday for positive drug tests. The players are:

  • Free agent pitcher Mario Alcantara, suspended 50 games for amphetamines (via Evan Drellich)
  • Red Sox catcher Jake Romanski, suspended 50 games for amphetamines (via Drellich)
  • Astros pitcher Brendan McCurry, suspended 50 games for methamphetamines (via Jake Kaplan)
  • Indians pitcher Dakody Clemmer, suspended 50 games for a second positive test for a drug of abuse (via Paul Hoynes)

The suspensions will be effective at the start of the 2017 regular season.

Alcantara, 23, spent last season with High-A Salem, putting up a 3.16 ERA with a 68/48 K/BB ratio in 79 2/3 innings. He made one start and 31 relief appearances. The Red Sox signed Alcantara out of the Dominican Republic in 2009.

Romanski, who turned 26 years old today, spent the 2016 season with Double-A Portland, batting .308/.338/.410 with 26 extra-base hits, 38 RBI, and 34 runs scored in 357 plate appearances. He was selected by the Red Sox in the 14th round of the 2013 draft.

McCurry, 24, split the season between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno, putting up an aggregate 3.07 ERA with a 94/21 K/BB ratio in 82 innings over 55 relief appearances and one start. The Athletics picked him in the 22nd round of the 2014 draft.

Clemmer, 20, pitched his first season of professional baseball last year in rookie ball. He made 17 relief appearances spanning 18 2/3 innings, posting a 7.71 ERA and a 21/13 K/BB ratio. He was selected in the 19th round of the 2016 draft by the Indians.

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.