Free agent reliever Guillermo Mota, most recently of the New York Mets, became the first Major League player to be suspended for 50 games under the league's revamped drug program after testing positive for the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association made the announcement on Wednesday that Mota was suspended, but there was no indication which of the myriad drugs on the banned list had set off the positive test. The 33-year-old Mota filed for free agency on Monday and, if and when he signs a contract, will be forced to serve the suspension at the start of the 2007 regular season. He was traded to the Mets by the Indians on Aug. 20 and was a mainstay of the bullpen throughout the postseason, finishing with a 3-0 record and 1.00 ERA in 18 regular-season appearances for the National League East champions.
Mota said he took "full responsibility" for his actions in a statement released on Wednesday to The Associated Press. "I used extremely poor judgment and deserve to be held accountable," Mota said. "To my teammates and the entire Mets organization, I am sorry. I truly regret what I did and hope that you can forgive me. "To baseball fans everywhere, I understand that you are disappointed in me, and I feel terrible and I promise this is the first and last time that this will happen." A Mets spokesman said only that the club "fully supports MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program." Mota was the second Mets pitcher with ties to a 40-man roster to be suspended this season. On April 28, Yusaku Iriki was also suspended for 50 games. But he was playing for Triple-A Norfolk at the time. Jason Grimsley, who already had been given his release by the Diamondbacks, was suspended for 50 games after federal agents raided his Arizona home this past April to confiscate illegally obtained human growth hormone (HGH), a substance that is banned under the current policy but is impossible to detect with a simple urine test. Grimsley hasn't returned to the game. Thus he hasn't served his suspension and the remainder of his MLB salary was donated to charity. Otherwise, not a single player wearing a Major League uniform was suspended during the course of the regular season and playoffs this year. That was down from 13 in 2005, when 12 players -- including Rafael Palmeiro -- were suspended during the season, and another -- Matt Lawton -- was suspended last Nov. 2. Those suspensions, under the old rules, were for 10 days. But the policy was renegotiated by the players and owners last November to include the harshest penalties ever for the use of performance-enhancing drugs and amphetamines. The current agreement calls for first-time offenders to be suspended for 50 games, second-time offenders to be suspended for 100 games and third-time offenders to be banished from baseball for life (with a hearing for possible reinstatement). Amphetamine usage carries lesser penalties.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.