July 17, 2015 at 11:46 AM
Greenville Drive right-hander Michael Kopech has been suspended for 50 games for a violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, MLB announced on Thursday. Kopech, ranked eighth on the SoxProspects.com rankings, tested positive for the stimulant Oxilofrine.
With exactly 50 games remaining in Greenville's season, the suspension will essentially end Kopech's season. He could theoretically pitch in the playoffs if the Drive were to qualify for the postseason, but it is more likely that he will return for the Fall Instructional League.
In a statement released to MiLB.com on Thursday evening, Kopech apologized and denied knowingly taking the substance, and also noted that he had appealed the suspension, essentially on principle.
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.
Oxilofrine notably led to the suspensions of sprinters Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell in the past. It is a "cutting" drug, used to enhance the body's ability to burn fat.
Kopech had been moving up prospect lists after lighting up radar guns in his first full season. The Texan had reportedly hit 100 mph and was sitting in the mid-90s while working on a slider that shows plus potential and a changeup that could develop into an average third pitch.
Pursuant to the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, Kopech is not barred from continuing to work out with the club during his suspension, although it is possible that he will report to Fort Myers to the organization's minor league complex rather than remaining with the Drive.
Photo credit: Michael Kopech by Kelly O'Connor
Chris Hatfield is Executive Editor of SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @SPChrisHatfield.