Pirates lose four Minor Leaguers for '08
Two test positive for banned substances, two report to military
PITTSBURGH -- As the result of two different situations, the Pirates learned on Friday that they have lost four of their Minor League players for the remainder of the season.
Major League Baseball has handed down 50-game suspensions to Venezuelan Summer League pitchers Roman Carrasco and Luis Figuera after both tested positive for substances that are in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Carrasco, 20, and Figuera, 17, will begin serving those suspensions immediately and are not permitted to practice or work out with the team until they are reinstated. The suspensions will also continue into next season because there are less than 50 games remaining this year.
The director of player development for the Pirates, Kyle Stark, said the organization is currently looking into the situation, but he suggested that this could be a situation where the young players did not understand that what they were taking constituted banned substances.
"I think it's the situation where consistently throughout this there has been a tendency for maybe some confusion to happen with the Latin American player," Stark said. "I think we need to continue to do our job down there to both educate and ensure that our guys know what they are putting in their bodies."
Carrasco is in his third season with the organization and was 7-1 with 38 strikeouts and just nine walks in 12 starts this season. Figuera split time between the bullpen and the starting rotation, going 6-2 with a 3.09 ERA.
"Both were performing well," Stark said. "Both were guys who we were excited to have in the system."
Stark also confirmed that both players will stay in the organization after serving their suspensions.
Short-season State College also will be finishing the season without two of its players, though for an entirely different reason. Catcher Chris Simmons and outfielder Cole White, both of whom were drafted out of the United States Military Academy at West Point last month, have been told by the military that they must report to military duty.
On July 8, the Army revised its alternative-service-option policy, which was created in 2005 to allow athletes to postpone their military duty and turn pro immediately following graduation. When the Pirates drafted Simmons in the 41st round and White in the 42nd round of the First-Year Player Draft in June, that policy was still intact.
"When we took the two guys, we were under the understanding that we would have them and that they would not have to fulfill their obligation initially," Stark said. "But the Department of Defense changed their approach on this and since they're the government, they can do that."
Simmons will be leaving the Spikes on Saturday and reporting to Fort Knox, Ky. Stark was unsure of where White would be headed, though the outfielder is expected to also leave the team in the next day or two.
Because this ruling from the Department of Defense just came down, the Pirates are still trying to get all the details about the military obligation both players will have. Major League Baseball is also looking into the situation.
In the meantime, though, Stark said that he is under the impression that both players will just be required to attend training and will not be under consideration to be deployed. He also said that right now the organization expects to have both players back in uniform for Spring Training.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.