More procedural issues in MLB's steroid testing

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More procedural issues in MLB's steroid testing

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Major League Baseball dropped its 100-game suspension of Colorado Rockies catcher Eliezer Alfonzo for a positive drug test because of the same procedural issues that came up in the Ryan Braun case. Alfonzo is eligible to play immediately, according to a person familiar with the decision who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Sunday night because no announcement had been made. Mostly a backup during six major league seasons, Alfonzo became the first player suspended twice for performance-enhancing drugs under the MLB testing program when the commissioner's office announced a 100-game penalty last September. Alfonzo appealed and was notified within the past week that MLB had lifted the ban. The reason: a dispute over the storage and shipment of his urine sample similar to the one that led to Braun's 50-game drug penalty getting overturned by an arbitrator in February, the person said. The person was not familiar with specific details regarding the chain of custody of Alfonzo's specimen. Alfonzo's contract was renewed by the Rockies in March, but he was not paid while he was on the restricted list during the suspension. He is currently assigned to Triple-A Colorado Springs in the Pacific Coast League, but the 33-year-old catcher has been at home in Venezuela, the person said. Alfonzo gets the minimum 480,000 salary in the majors and 86,473 in the minors. A message left for Rockies spokesman Jay Alves late Sunday night was not immediately returned. Braun, last year's NL MVP, tested positive in October for elevated testosterone, which was revealed by ESPN in December. His sample was collected on Oct. 1, a Saturday and the day he and the Milwaukee Brewers opened the NL playoffs. The collector did not send the sample to the laboratory until Monday, thinking it would be more secure at home than at a Federal Express office during the weekend. Baseball's drug agreement states that "absent unusual circumstances, the specimens should be sent by FedEx to the laboratory on the same day they are collected." Braun appealed and when his ban was thrown out by arbitrator Shyam Das, MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said management "vehemently" disagreed with the decision, which made the Milwaukee slugger the first major league player to successfully challenge a drug-related penalty in a grievance. During the hearing, Braun's side challenged the chain of custody from the time the urine sample was collected by Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc. to when it was sent, nearly 48 hours later, to a World Anti-Doping Agency-certified laboratory outside Montreal, two people familiar with the case said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because what took place in the hearing is supposed to be confidential. Since then, MLB and the players' union have made some changes to collection procedures as a result of Das' decision. Employees of Comprehensive Drug Testing, who take the specimens from players, are now required to drop the samples off at a Federal Express office on the same day they are collected, provided an office is open in the vicinity. If not, collectors should take the specimens home rather than leave them in a drop box. The prohibition against using drop boxes already was in the drug agreement between players and owners. Alfonzo's penalty was dropped without a hearing before an arbitrator, the person said Sunday. The catcher missed the final 15 games of last season and Colorado has already played 33 games this year. Under the major league drug agreement, first offenses are arbitrated before any public announcement -- but additional offenses are litigated after a suspension is announced. Alfonzo also 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 last September 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." After the suspension four years ago, Alfonzo said he never knowingly took steroids but did take medicine for bronchitis while home in Venezuela. Manny Ramirez and Guillermo Mota are the only other major league players to be penalized twice for positive drug tests. Baseball began testing with penalties in 2004. Under the current rules, a third violation would carry a lifetime ban. Alfonzo is a .240 career hitter with 17 homers and 67 RBIs in 591 at-bats over 193 major league games. He has also played for San Diego and Seattle.

Adam Engel making the most of his opportunity with White Sox

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USA TODAY

Adam Engel making the most of his opportunity with White Sox

Adam Engel is making the most of his second opportunity with the White Sox.

Engel had his best game of the season in Thursday’s finale against the Minnesota Twins, where he went 4-for-5 with three singles, a double, and two RBIs in the White Sox 9-0 win. He became the first White Sox outfielder with a four-hit game within their first 11 career MLB games since Harold Baines (10th game) on April 20, 1980, according to CSN stats guru Chris Kamka.

"Some days you hit it, some days you don’t," Engel said. "Yesterday was the day that I hit it.”

After nearly a five-hour rain delay, the White Sox came out hot right from the get-go on Thursday. In fact, by the time Engel was ready to bat for the first time, the White Sox were already leading 4-0 and Twins starter Nik Turley had been yanked from the game.

“It was awesome,” Engel. “(The) team is winning, getting some hits. It’s a great feeling. Obviously the goal is to try and help the team win.”

[Vivid Seats: Buy your White Sox tickets here]

Engel made his major league debut on May 27 and then was optioned back to Triple-A Charlotte on June 9. His wife Jaime had a child on June 12, and almost a week later, he was recalled again by the White Sox to replace an injured Leury Garcia.

Engel, who's hitting .344/.382/.406 entering Friday's game, will look to keep his hot streak going with his wife and newborn in attendance.

In Saad’s case, re-acquiring Blackhawks alumni is beneficial

In Saad’s case, re-acquiring Blackhawks alumni is beneficial

* “Don’t look to the past anymore. It’s great to think you can recapture the magic with former players but years go by and times change.”

The sentences you see above were written by yours truly after the Blackhawks were unceremoniously eliminated from the first round in April. And for the most part, I stand by the message. The Blackhawks kept going back to their alumni well for solutions but, for the most part, it wasn’t working. But there’s always an exception to the rule, always one asterisk that can be applied in every situation (as we’ve done here).

In this case, that exception is Brandon Saad.

This isn’t someone who played with the Blackhawks five or more years ago. This isn’t a player who’s in his 30s. This isn’t a player who’s at the end of his career. This is a player in his prime, a 24-year-old who has a whole lot of game remaining and a whole lot of familiarity with this group, especially captain Jonathan Toews.

By the way, anyone else struck by the irony that the same Saad deal that the Blackhawks couldn’t afford two years ago is now one that fits perfectly, and will be really beneficial in two seasons when they don’t have to worry about trying to re-sign Artemi Panarin, who will be an unrestricted free agent?

Anyway, back to revisiting the past. General manager Stan Bowman admitted that he was hoping to bring Saad back into the fold at some point, although talks for this particular deal didn’t heat up until the past few days.

“Certainly it was a tough move a couple of years ago to have to make that trade [of Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2015]," Bowman said. “Today my conversation had a much different tone. Brandon’s coming back and that chemistry is there right away and intensity and the way he plays. His all-around game is second to none.”

Saad said he wondered if he’d end up with the Blackhawks again at some point in his career.

“The day I was traded I talked with Stan and you part ways, but it’s a small league and there are always opportunities. It was definitely a thought in my mind possibly ending up in Chicago,” he said. “I didn’t think it’d happen this soon but that’s just the way it happened. It’s exciting to be back somewhere I’m comfortable, somewhere I know and an organization that’s had success.”

Yes, the Blackhawks went back to their alumni well. But instead of getting an aging veteran they’ve reacquired a kid in his prime. Every situation can come with an asterisk. This is one exception that will turn out well for the Blackhawks.