Jeff Francis agrees to stay with Reds, but will be at Triple-A

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Jeff Francis chose not to opt out of his minor-league contract with the Reds, hoping to stick around in camp beyond his opt-out date and win a big-league jump. Instead he’ll remain in the organization while beginning the season at Triple-A, where the 31-year-old left-hander hasn’t pitched regularly since way back in 2004.

Back then he was a stud prospect for the Rockies, but injuries have taken their toll on Francis and his career ERA is 4.78 in 1,066 innings. Coors Field being his home ballpark for most of that time certainly didn’t help, but Francis actually has a higher ERA (5.06) on the road and went 6-16 with a 4.82 ERA for the Royals last season.

Now he’ll bide his time at Triple-A, waiting for the Reds to need a fill-in starter at some point.

MLB, union resume blood testing after pandemic, lockout

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – In the first acknowledgment that MLB and the players’ association resumed blood testing for human growth hormone, the organizations said none of the 1,027 samples taken during the 2022 season tested positive.

HGH testing stopped in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Testing also was halted during the 99-day lockout that ended in mid-March, and there were supply chain issues due to COVID-19 and additional caution in testing due to coronavirus protocols.

The annual public report is issued by Thomas M. Martin, independent program administrator of MLB’s joint drug prevention and treatment program. In an announcement accompanying Thursday’s report, MLB and the union said test processing is moving form the INRS Laboratory in Quebec, Canada, to the UCLA Laboratory in California.

MLB tests for HGH using dried blood spot testing, which was a change that was agreed to during bargaining last winter. There were far fewer samples taken in 2022 compared to 2019, when there were 2,287 samples were collected – none positive.

Beyond HGH testing, 9,011 urine samples were collected in the year ending with the 2022 World Series, up from 8,436 in the previous year but down from 9,332 in 2019. And therapeutic use exemptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder dropped for the ninth straight year, with just 72 exemptions in 2022.

Overall, the league issued six suspensions in 2022 for performance-enhancing substances: three for Boldenone (outfielder/first baseman Danny Santana, pitcher Richard Rodriguez and infielder Jose Rondon, all free agents, for 80 games apiece); one each for Clomiphene (Milwaukee catcher Pedro Severino for 80 games), Clostebol (San Diego shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for 80 games) and Stanozolol (Milwaukee pitcher J.C. Mejia for 80 games).

There was an additional positive test for the banned stimulant Clobenzorex. A first positive test for a banned stimulant results in follow-up testing with no suspension.