Red Sox Minor League pitcher Michael Kopech was handed a 50-game suspension without pay Thursday for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Kopech tested positive for the stimulant Oxilofrine. The 19-year-old right-hander is in the midst of his second year in the Red Sox organization, playing for Class A Greenville, and is currently Boston's No. 10 rated prospect, according to MLB.com.
Kopech apologized but also denied knowingly taking the substance, saying he'd never heard of Oxilofrine. He released the following statement to MiLB.com:
"I would like to start by apologizing to all of baseball, baseball fans, and specifically the Red Sox and Red Sox fan base. I respect the game as much, if not more than, anyone else. With that being said, I never have and never will intentionally cheat the game that has been so great to me. I haven't bought any supplements that aren't NSF certified for sport. Therefore, I know I have not bought a supplement containing this drug. I have never heard of Oxilofrine, honestly. Apparently, it is a drug that many people use for weight loss. I have been trying to gain weight since I signed with the Red Sox. I do understand this is also a stimulant. This drug would have no positive outcome for me and that's why I chose to appeal. I realized I didn't have much evidence to prove that I'm innocent, but I didn't have any understanding of how I could have failed a test. I respect the system and understand why they have to be so careful with the testing. I also understand why that means my suspension couldn't have been overturned without proper evidence. I have 50 games to get to work and better myself and as a ball player. Next season I'll be better than ever. Drug free."
The Red Sox, who drafted Kopech 33rd overall in the 2014 Draft, released this statement on the suspension:
"The Red Sox fully support Major League Baseball and the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. While we are disappointed by the news of this violation, we will look to provide the appropriate support to Michael."
Through 16 games (15 starts) in the South Atlantic League this year, Kopech is 4-5 with a 2.63 ERA and 70 strikeouts against 27 walks over 65 innings.
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.