Matthew Pouliot

Nelson Cruz

Nelson Cruz says infection led him to Biogenesis

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Nelson Cruz says that a gastrointestinal infection, helicobacter pylori, led him to seek out the assistance of performance-enhancing drugs prior to the 2012 season.

According to his statement, timed with the announcement of his 50-game suspension, Cruz said he became seriously ill in Nov. 2011 and that, by the time he was properly diagnosed, he had lost 40 pounds.

Just weeks before I was to report to spring training in 2012, I was unsure whether I would be physically able to play. Faced with this situation, I made an error in judgment that I deeply regret, and I accept full responsibility for that error. I should have handled the situation differently, and my illness was no excuse. I am thankful for the unwavering support of my family, friends and teammates during this difficult time. I look forward to regaining the trust and respect of the Rangers organization, my teammates, and the great Rangers’ fans, and I am grateful for the opportunity to rejoin the team for the playoffs.

The Rangers will probably have to welcome Cruz back should they reach the postseason — he’s a key cog in the middle of their lineup — but they’ll probably wash their hands of him after that. Cruz is a free agent at season’s end, and the Rangers aren’t likely to throw a whole bunch of money at a guy who bailed on the team.

Four Biogenesis minor leaguers to remain suspended into 2014

Fernando Martinez
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Part of the rush to get the Biogenesis suspensions announced now was to allow major leaguers could finish their bans this year (and thus not appeal said bans). Things won’t go so smoothly for minor leaguers, though. Of the 13 players about to be suspended by Major League Baseball, four are not on 40-man rosters and will have to continue serving out their suspensions next year, a source familiar with the investigation told NBCSports.com’s Craig Calcaterra . Those four are:

Astros reliever Sergio Escalona
Yankees outfielder Fernando Martinez
Padres reliever Fautino De Los Santos
Free agent reliever Jordan Norberto

Jesus Montero of the Mariners and Cesar Puello and Jordany Valdespin of the Mets are also currently in the minors, but since they’re on 40-man rosters, they’re treated as major leaguers, meaning all three will be allowed to finish out their suspensions this year.

There are currently about 28-29 minor league games remaining in the season. Any playoff games will also likely count towards the 50, but Escalona, Martinez and De Los Santos will be prevented from playing for the first weeks of 2014.

All four players have major league experience. Escalona, who has been hurt this year, had allowed 11 runs in 15 innings for Double-A Corpus Christi. Martinez, who is always hurt, was at .325/.394/.554 with four homers in 83 at-bats for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after signing on with the Yankees in June. De Los Santos did his best work for the A’s in 2011. He’s pitched just 2 1/3 innings in the Padres system this year.

It remains to be seen whether the league will give any special consideration to Norberto, who can’t actually serve his suspension while unemployed and who isn’t likely to receive much interest with the suspension hanging over his head. Norberto had a 2.77 ERA in 52 innings for the A’s last year before falling apart this spring and getting hurt. He was released earlier this year.

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Update: Puello was incorrectly listed as being in with the group of minor leaguers. He’s a member of the Mets’ 40-man roster and will be allowed to complete his suspension this year.

De Los Santos’ status as a Padres minor leaguer has been corrected. He was released by the team earlier this season (and mistakenly listed as a free agent here), but he was re-signed to a minor league contract.

Jesus Montero’s future in doubt with 50-game ban

Jesus Montero
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Two years ago, one could have looked at the group of the 14 suspensed Biogenesis players — Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera, Jesus Montero, Francisco Cervelli, Antonio Bastardo, Jordany Valdespin, Sergio Escalona, Fernando Martinez, Cesar Puello, Fautino De Los Santos and Jordan Norberto —  and concluded that, besides Braun, Montero had the most promising future of the group.

Now, the big Montero-for-Michael Pineda trade, which was shaping up as a winner for the Mariners a year ago, might be a dud all around. Pineda just had a setback in his return from shoulder surgery, and it doesn’t look like he’ll contribute for the Yankees this season. Montero showed some promise during his rookie season in 2012, hitting .260/.298/.386 with 15 homers and 62 RBI in 515 at-bats, but he was a total bust in the majors this year, hitting .208/.264/.327 with three homers in 101 at-bats, and the Mariners have given up on him as a catcher.

MLB has yet to make it clear how minor leaguers will serve their Biogenesis suspensions; there aren’t 50 games left in the minor league seasons, so those could linger into next year. Montero, though, is on the 40-man roster and will be suspended as a major leaguer, so he should be able to finish his suspension in September and enter 2014 with a clean slate. Still, nothing he’s done this year suggests that he should be in Seattle’s plans for Opening Day. Justin Smoak has taken a step forward and is likely to remain the team’s first baseman next year. Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez are free agents, so the DH spot will be open. The Mariners, though, don’t seem likely to reserve it for him. One imagines they’ll make an attempt to re-sign Morales. Perhaps it’d be better for Montero if they re-signed Michael Morse as a DH instead, since Morse could always shift back to the outfield if Montero emerges. That’s not an option with Morales.

Montero, though, is going to have to prove himself all over again, and that’s probably going to require some Triple-A time. He’s only used up one option year, so that’s not a problem. Since Montero doesn’t have anything going for him except his bat now, he’ll need to mash to earn another chance. He’ll be 24 next year, and if he doesn’t find his stroke then, many will start writing him off.

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Update: A source told NBCSports.com’s Craig Calcaterra that Montero will, in fact, be able to finish out his suspension this year, since he is on the 40-man roster. Minor leaguers given 50-game bans will be forced to sit out the start of next year, since there are only 25-30 games left in the minor league seasons.