Eliezer Alfonzo ban dropped
NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball and the players' union agreed to drop the 100-game suspension imposed on 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 missed 48 games -- the final 15 of last season and the first 33 of this year.
Braun's 50-game suspension for a positive drug test was overturned in February by arbitrator Shyam Das after Braun's lawyers argued his urine sample was not handled in the manner specified by baseball's drug agreement.
"I find that very intriguing," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said before Monday night's game at San Francisco. "I'm actually for that young man, I'll tell you that. He was a model citizen while he was here with us last year. In his own way, he did a nice job of making a contribution and helping us win some games. We'll see what happens as we go forward."
The collector took Braun's sample on a Saturday and did not drop it off immediately at a Federal Express office. He testified that because it would not have been sent until Monday to the drug-testing laboratory outside Montreal, it would make more sense to store the sample at his home over the weekend than in a FedEx office.
The commissioner's office said Monday that Alfonzo's suspension had been dropped "by mutual agreement of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association."
"Alfonzo's grievance challenging his suspension raised issues that were nearly identical to those resolved in the arbitration involving Ryan Braun," MLB said. "It is not anticipated that any other future cases will be impacted by the circumstances raised in the grievances of these two players."
Colorado designated Alfonzo for assignment May 7 and sent him outright to Triple-A Colorado Springs of the Pacific Coast League two days later.
"It's scary because of course nobody wants to go through what they went through," said Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. "And if they're not guilty it's even more scary for us because you never want anything like that to happen to you. After all, you find out that you're not guilty. There's a lot of pressure and other things going on."
MLB and the union have been negotiating changes to their drug-collection procedures as part of the process of finalizing a new labor contract.
Das, baseball's arbitrator since 1999, was told last week by management that he is being terminated. He remains an NFL arbitrator and is to hear the NFL players' union grievance against the league in the New Orleans Saints bounties case Wednesday.
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 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.
"If the suspension's gone, I guess he's able to play again," Gonzalez said. "I don't know what they're going to do, but it's good for him."
Colorado closer Rafael Betancourt is rooting for Alfonzo to make a comeback.
"I'm very happy for him. Thank God all went well and he can play," Betancourt said. "I know him from playing in Venezuela and he's a guy who is always working hard. He's a good catcher and a good hitter. We saw that when he was with us last year."
Manny Ramirez and Guillermo Mota are the only other major league players to be penalized twice for positive drug tests. Ramirez is eligible to return to the Oakland Athletics from his suspension May 30, on his 40th birthday.
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.
"I'd like to see him get another shot in baseball, you better believe I would," Tracy said. "He's a wonderful kid."
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