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Twins react to Rincon's suspension

Twins react to Rincon's suspension

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MINNEAPOLIS -- As he shook hands, chatted with teammates and put on his Twins uniform in the clubhouse Tuesday, suspended reliever Juan Rincon was relaxed and didn't seem like he was one of the biggest stories in baseball.

Then Rincon walked onto the Metrodome field, where several dozen reporters and photographers awaited. In front of the Twins' dugout, he made his first public statement since it was announced Monday that he tested positive for a performance enhancing drug and suspended for 10 days as a first-time offender.

With Twins general manager Terry Ryan standing at his side next to a bank of microphones, the 26-year-old setup man did not take questions, but read from a prepared statement.

"Baseball is my life and I was devastated after becoming aware that I tested positive for a violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program," part of Rincon's statement said. "The details are confidential and I have asked the player's association to challenge the suspension."

Because of confidentiality rules, it was not revealed what substance Rincon was alleged to have taken.

"What I can share with you today is that I would never knowingly compromise my position within Major League Baseball or jeopardize my relationship with the Minnesota Twins organization or the relationships that I enjoy with my teammates," Rincon said.

Unlike other discipline measures that can be pending while the appeal process is ongoing, the pitcher's suspension must be served immediately. The suspension ends on May 12, which is an off day for Minnesota. Therefore, his first game back will be May 13 against the Rangers at the Metrodome.

It took Rincon just over a minute to read his statement. When he was done, he returned to the clubhouse as Ryan fielded questions.

"I support Juan," Ryan said. "The club supports Juan. It's like any other situation in an organization. There are issues that creep into a season or a career that you ultimately have to face. This is one. This isn't exactly what anybody had in mind."

During his suspension, Rincon is permitted to work out with the club before games but is not allowed on the field or in the clubhouse during them. Ryan said Rincon would go to extended Spring Training at the club's Fort Myers, Fla., complex Thursday while the team is on the road.

In 12 games this season, Rincon is 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA. In 2004, he emerged as one of the game's top setup men and a key cog in the Twins' third straight AL Central title run when he went 11-6 with a 2.63 ERA in 77 games.

Twins teammates continued to stand behind Rincon on Tuesday.

"I think if you ask anyone in here, and you're talking about Juan Rincon, I think he's the last person in the room that you'd ever expect," closer Joe Nathan said. "You almost think it's a joke when the announcement came out."

"I can't believe it. Juan Rincon isn't that type of guy," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "He's always worried about what people think of him. It's something that I can't understand."

Players shared concerns about the testing process and not having enough information to avoid trouble.

"The system is not perfect," lefty reliever J.C. Romero said. "We are not aware of the things we are allowed to take and not allowed to take. So the system has to get better for us to have a better knowledge and understanding of the things you can get at GNC and these places that are legal stuff and won't create a chemical reaction in your body."

"I think these tests, they have to better than they are now," Nathan said. "Right now, everybody is putting a label on Rincon because he violated this policy because they suspect the worst. Everyone thinks he's taking what [Jose] Canseco was taking. Obviously, in this situation, that's not the case."

In the meantime, the Twins will go on without Rincon. They started a three-game series vs. the Indians a few hours after the press conference.

"Juan's a standup guy," Ryan said. "We have to put this behind us. We're going to try to move forward."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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