Seattle Mariners shortstop turned utility player Tim Beckham was suspended for 80 games Tuesday by Major League Baseball after testing positive for the performance-enhancing substance Stanozolol.
The anabolic steroid violates MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Beckham’s suspension begins immediately, will last the 48 games the Mariners have remaining this season, and into the 2020 season, should he resume playing.
“Disappointing,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Stuff like that happens. But, we go on. The game does not stop. It doesn’t stop for anybody.”
Beckham, 29, is on a one-year deal with Seattle after joining the organization as a free agent in January. He opened the season as the Mariners’ starting shortstop, but moved into a more limited utility role when J.P. Crawford was promoted in May He had a triple-slash line of .237/.293/.461 with 21 doubles, 15 homers and 47 RBIs in 88 games.
The former No. 1 overall pick by Tampa Bay has played in parts of five major league seasons with the Rays, Baltimore and Seattle. He has a career slash line of .249/.302/.431 in 472 games.
Beckham released a statement through the MLB Players Association shortly following the announcement. His locker in Seattle’s clubhouse was cleared out several hours before Tuesday night’s series opener against San Diego.
“I was recently notified that I had tested positive for Stanozolol, a prohibited substance under MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement,” the statement read. “I was given a product from a trusted source, who had advised me that it was safe to take.
“Regrettably, the product was tainted. I exercised my rights under the Joint Drug Agreement, and presented my case to an independent arbitrator. While I am disappointed in the result, I respect the ruling and understand my responsibilities under the Joint Drug Agreement.
“I accept full responsibility for putting myself in this position. I sincerely apologize to the Mariners’ organization, the fans, my teammates, and my family for this mistake. I look forward to resuming my career once my suspension has been served.”
Beckham had played several games in left field for the Mariners before the suspension as a way to get his bat in the lineup consistently. That position will be filled by rookies utility players Dylan Moore, Tim Lopes and likely Ryan Court, who played a pair of games in left during the last road trip.
“It creates some opportunities for some guys to get some at-bats out there,” Servais said. “We’ve got Dylan Moore out there (Tuesday night against the Padres). We’ll probably give Tim Lopes a chance out there at some point even though he hasn’t done a whole lot of that in his career. We’ll get a chance to get some different bats in there. Like I said, the game doesn’t stop. We will move on.”
FOUR IS ENOUGH FOR NOW
The Mariners will stick with four pitchers in their starting rotation — Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi, Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone — for at least two more turns.
“We’ve still got a few off days in (this five-game homestand), so we’re really not needing that fifth guy anytime real soon,” Servais said.
Who does eventually replace recently-traded starter Mike Leake could depend on where Felix Hernandez is at in his rehab process. Hernandez (lat, shoulder) made his first rehab start with Short-A Everett last week, and is scheduled to make another Thursday with High-A Modesto.
Should he not be ready when the Mariners need that fifth rotation spot filled — likely during their upcoming nine-game road trip to Detroit, Toronto and Tampa Bay — it’s possible the club turns to rookie left-hander Justus Sheffield. The 23-year-old, who was earlier this season considered Seattle’s top prospect, has performed well since his demotion from Triple-A Tacoma in June, posting a 1.64 ERA in nine starts with Double-A Arkansas and striking out 65 while walking 14.
The Mariners have also discussed adding a sixth pitcher to the rotation — likely 23-year-old right-hander Justin Dunn, who is also with Arkansas — but not until September.
“That’s more when you can expand rosters, and we’ll just have extra guys around,” Servais said. “Some of the pitchers we do call up from the minor leagues are going to have a pretty heavy workload on them. A lot of these guys have carried a lot of innings. It’s not like we’re just going to shove them in there.
“We’re going to watch the innings limits on some of these guys and be smart with it going forward.”
Brandon Brennan (shoulder) was reactivated Tuesday afternoon following a long rehab assignment with Tacoma. He last pitched for the Mariners in July.
“I’m as ready as I could possibly be,” Brennan said. “I’ve been down there in Tacoma for a little while getting some work in, working on some stuff, and I’m ready to go.”
Brennan has felt fully healthy for a while, but was kept in Triple-A for a few extra relief appearances to iron out some mechanics.
“He’s locating fastballs where he wants to live — down in the strike zone,” Servais said. “We won’t run him out there for three or four days in a row. We want to be smart in how we use these guys. … He’s throwing the ball better.”
Brennan said he’s focused on continuing to develop as an individual during these final two months so he can be in a position next season to help Seattle’s big-league club improve.
“Just to be in a position where they want me here, and to where I can help us win as many games as possible next year, and develop into a point where we are a playoff team,” he said.
Brennan was 2-6 with a 5.56 ERA across 34 innings in 30 relief appearances before his injury.
Lopes (concussion) also returned from a rehab assignment with Tacoma, and right-handed reliever Gerson Bautista was optioned to the Rainiers in a corresponding move.
Right-handed reliever David McKay was claimed off waivers by Detroit on Tuesday, leaving Seattle’s 40-man roster at 36 players.
▪ Felix Hernandez (lat, shoulder) was throwing in the bullpen Tuesday afternoon, and is scheduled to make his next rehab start Thursday with high Modesto. The plan is to have him toss three innings or about 45-50 pitches.
▪ Dee Gordon (quad), Mitch Haniger (ruptured testicle) and Braden Bishop (lacerated spleen) are all participating in workouts with the Mariners this week. They could each feasibly go out on rehab assignments as early as next week.
▪ Dan Altavilla (forearm) threw a bullpen Monday and is tossing up to 250 feet. He is scheduled to throw a live BP Thursday.
▪ Connor Sadzeck (elbow) saw a Rangers doctor in Texas and had a non-surgical procedure performed. His baseball activity has been shut down for the time being.
▪ Ryon Healy (back, hip) was set to undergo hip surgery Tuesday. He is out for the season.