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A’s Starter Colon Suspended After Positive Drug Test

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Bartolo Colon #21 of the Oakland Athletics throws to first base after fielding a ground ball against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at O.co Coliseum on July 17, 2012. (Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)

Bartolo Colon #21 of the Oakland Athletics throws to first base after fielding a ground ball against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at O.co Coliseum on July 17, 2012. (Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)

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OAKLAND (CBS/AP) – Former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon of the Oakland Athletics was suspended for 50 games Wednesday after testing positive for testosterone.

Major League Baseball made the announcement one week after San Francisco Giants outfielder and All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera received a 50 game ban for the same substance.

“I apologize to the fans, to my teammates and to the Oakland A’s,” Colon said in a statement released by the players’ association. “I accept responsibility for my actions and I will serve my suspension as required by the joint drug program.”

He will miss the final 40 games of the regular season and the first 10 games of the postseason if Oakland advances that far. Any remainder of the suspension would be served in a future season, if Colon signs another major league contract.

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:

“It’s a shock,” Oakland reliever Grant Balfour said. “He’s a guy that we’re definitely relying on right now. I guess you could say it’s bad timing any time, but especially now.”

Oakland, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006, began Wednesday a half-game out in the AL wild-card race.  The A’s were preparing for an afternoon series finale with the Minnesota Twins at the Coliseum when they got the news from the clubhouse TVs. A closed-door team meeting was quickly called.

The 39-year-old Colon was having a bounce back year for Oakland, going 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA in 24 starts this season, his first with the A’s. He has a 171-122 record in 15 big league seasons. A two-time All-Star, he won the 2005 AL Cy Young Award after going 21-8 for the Los Angeles Angels.

Colon will lose the remaining $469,945 of his $2 million base salary this year. He also has earned $750,000 in performance bonuses based on starts and $150,000 based on innings, which is not impacted. Thursday’s start would have earned him another $250,000, and the suspension will cost him the chance to make $850,000 in additional bonuses based on innings.

Five players have been suspended this year under the big league drug program. San Francisco reliever Guillermo Mota was penalized 100 games in May following his second positive test, and Philadelphia infielder Freddy Galvis and free agent outfielder Marlon Byrd were suspended 50 games each in June.

Colon had been thankful to get a second chance with the A’s. His 10 wins are his most since his Cy Young season. Colon has credited a stem-cell procedure two years ago for saving his career. He had fat and bone marrow stem cells collected and injected into his troublesome right elbow and shoulder in an innovative and unproven technique. Colon had no idea how it would turn out, but he responded and spent 2011 with the Yankees.

“The Oakland Athletics are disappointed to learn of today’s suspension of pitcher Bartolo Colón,” said the team in a prepared statement. “The organization fully supports Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and its efforts to eliminate performance-enhancing substances from our game.  Per the Basic Agreement, the A’s will have no further comment.”

Colon signed a $2 million, one-year contract last month to join a rotation that lost two top pitchers this offseason. All-Star left-hander Gio Gonzalez got traded to the Washington Nationals, while Trevor Cahill was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Closer Andrew Bailey is also gone, sent to Boston in late December.

The Bay Area had already been shocked at the suspension of Cabrera only a week earlier.
“Two guys — that’s why they’ve got the policy, I guess,” Balfour said. “The guy may be innocent. You just hope there’s some mistake there.”

General manager Billy Beane received word from MLB earlier Wednesday and began searching for a starter to take Colon’s turn in the rotation Thursday at Tampa Bay. Tyson Ross will be called up from Triple-A Sacramento. Beane addressed the A’s in the clubhouse
before the team took the field for pregame warmups.

“Listen, it’s disappointing. From a baseball standpoint, we’re scrambling,” Beane said. “We’re all disappointed, not just for the Giants and the A’s, but for baseball.”

Lance Williams, co-author of the Barry Bonds expose Game of Shadows, told KCBS he’s not surprised that players are still being caught using performance enhancing drugs given the amount of money at stake in professional sports.

“The testing isn’t perfect…if you’re careful and lucky, you can beat the test.” said Williams. “Until there’s fool-proof science on this, people are going to try it.”

“If you really wanted to have clean sports you have to invest in better science for testing,” he said. “Somebody would have to put up many millions of dollars to attract the researchers to do the work. That’s really the way to go if you want to have clean sports.”

The A’s weren’t interested in discussing Colon’s situation as they try to return to the playoffs for the first time since being swept by the Tigers in four games of the ’06 AL championship series. Oakland did welcome back starting left-hander Brett Anderson in Tuesday night’s win over the Twins following a 14-month absence because of Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery.

“That suspension has nothing to do with me,” outfielder Coco Crisp said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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