NEW YORK — Colorado Rockies catcher Eliezer Alfonzo become the first player suspended twice for performance-enhancing drugs under the Major League Baseball testing program when the commissioner’s office announced a 100-game penalty Wednesday.
Alfonzo, a 32-year-old backup in his sixth big league season, was suspended for 50 games in April 2008 while a member of the San Francisco Giants.
“I am surprised by this positive test,” he said in a statement released by the Major League Baseball Players Association. “I learned my lesson in 2008 and have not taken any prohibited substances since then. With the union’s help, I intend to fight this suspension and look forward to appearing before the arbitrator in the near future.”
Under the major league drug agreement, first offenses are arbitrated before any public announcement — but additional offenses are litigated after a suspension is announced.
Manny Ramirez retired in April rather than face a 100-game suspension following a second positive test.
Baseball began testing with penalties in 2004. Under the current rules, a third violation would carry a lifetime ban.
Alfonzo is hitting .267 this season with one homer and nine RBIs in 75 at-bats. He has a .240 career average with 17 homers during a career that also included stints with San Diego and Seattle.
After the suspension three years ago, Alfonzo said he never knowingly took steroids but did take medicine for bronchitis while home in Venezuela.
The Rockies declined to talk about Alfonzo’s most recent suspension.
“This is something that New York is very, very involved in,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said in Milwaukee before Colorado played the Brewers. “It’s something that is out of my jurisdiction.”
The Rockies plan to stick with Wilin Rosario and Chris Iannetta at catcher, and they also have Jordan Pacheco in case of an emergency. Pacheco is a converted catcher, but has been playing third base recently.
Alfonzo became the first player suspended for performance-enhancing drugs under the major league plan since Cincinnati pitcher Edinson Volquez in April 2010, though Milwaukee pitcher Mark Rogers was suspended for 25 games last month after testing positive for a banned stimulant.
There have been 60 suspensions this year under the tighter minor league testing program. Three 50-game penalties were announced Wednesday, to Colorado right-hander Randol Rogers (Boldenone), Cincinnati right-hander Cole Green (Methylhexaneamine) and Baltimore first baseman Rhyne Hughes (an amphetamine). The trio will serve the penalties at the start of next season.
The substances that cause a positive test under the major league program are not immediately announced, but are included with no name attached during the offseason report from the independent administrator.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press