Catcher Welington Castillo’s 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance was met by his bosses and teammates with disappointment and surprise. There’s also a strong sense of being let down, if not anger.
Castillo, 31, was signed as a free agent last offseason to provide veteran leadership for a young team and pitching staff as well as a run-producing bat in the middle of the lineup.
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And now he’s gone until late August, leaving a team with one of the worst records in baseball to scramble at a key position. Just when the Sox were putting a little something together, winning five of seven games, including Castillo’s last one Wednesday night, they have to endure a low blow, from one of their own, no less.
“As a teammate, you definitely feel like he let you down,’’ right-hander James Shields said. “I mean, the guy’s not going to be here for 80 of our games. He made the choice, and he’s going to face the consequences for it. We have to move on as a team and try to win some ballgames.’’
Castillo owned up to a mistake that will cost him about half of his $7.25 million salary. He tested positive for Erythropoietin (EPO), a performance-enhancer in violation of Major League Baseball’s Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
He apologized to teammates Thursday morning at Guaranteed Rate Field and released this statement:
“The positive test resulted from an extremely poor decision that I, and I alone, made. I take full responsibility for my conduct. I have let many people down, including my family, my teammates, the White Sox organization and its fans, and from my heart, I apologize. Following my suspension, I look forward to rejoining my teammates and doing whatever I can to help the White Sox win.’’
General manager Rick Hahn said the club is “saddened and disappointed” by Castillo’s actions.
“He understands that he has negatively affected the team and has fallen short of the expectations we have of our players,’’ Hahn said. “The White Sox fully support Major League Baseball’s policy and its efforts to eliminate performance-enhancing substances from our game.”
Sox players generally supported their teammate, as players usually do. But for a struggling team that fell to 15-32 after a 9-3 loss to the Orioles, this was hard to swallow.
“Surprised,’’ catcher Omar Narvaez said. “He’s a grown man, and he makes his own decisions. It’s a thing that happened, and I can’t say anything about it.
“He’s a human being. We all make mistakes, and I’m just going to support him as family.”
In some ways, Tim Anderson said, he feels sympathetic to Castillo’s plight. But “in some ways, yeah,” he did let the team down.
Jose Abreu said he supports his teammate, who appeared to him to be “apologetic and hurt.”
“It’s a really difficult moment for all of us, for our organization and for [Castillo],’’ Abreu said.
Hahn appreciated Castillo owning up, but that didn’t diminish his disappointment. All sorts of emotions ran through Hahn since he learned of the violation Wednesday night, many of which were not pretty.
“You have to remain diligent about where you are seeking advice and what you are putting in your body,’’ Hahn said. “Players bear full responsibility for what they do regardless of intent or understanding of exactly what they are doing, which makes it a very strong and effective program we support. But it’s a reminder to everyone in that clubhouse and throughout the league to be diligent about what you are doing.’’
Castillo remains in the Sox’ plans for 2019. He’s under contract for $7.25 million next season, and the club holds an option on him for 2020.
“It is surprising, and it’s unfortunate,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. “But we all know that we live by the choices that we make and the consequences that come from those choices. I would say that more than anything, he let himself down.”