If year one of baseball's performance-enhancing-drugs policy taught us anything, it's that those drugs aren't just for sluggers, after all. With the exception of Rafael Palmeiro (top)--whose positive test was announced in August, less than five months after he and his index finger vowed to Congress that they were clean--nary a home run hitter got busted.
A hint of what to expect came in April, with the announcement of the first player to receive a 10-game suspension under the new plan: Alex Sanchez of the Devil Rays, a 180-pound outfielder who came into the season with four career homers in 365 games. Five of the other 10 offenders--including Felix Heredia of the Mets, who last week became the most recent player to be suspended--were relief pitchers.
So what gives? Well, just like at your service station, there's a big premium on gas in the majors. Teams value setup men who can throw hard. And a reliever's arm needs to withstand the strain of warming up, if not pitching, three or four nights a week. "To the people in baseball it's no surprise," one AL general manager says of the trend of relievers getting nabbed. "In recent years the numbers have been unbelievable when it comes to velocity from guys coming out of the bullpen. You saw this year a noticeable drop in velocity. All those 97, 98, 99s became 91, 92, 93s. And guys probably weren't able to recover as quickly [from frequent work] without that kind of help."
Position Players (5) Palmeiro; Sanchez; Jorge Piedra, Rockies; Michael Morse, Mariners; Jamal Strong, Mariners. Aside from Palmeiro, who was booed so lustily that he had to wear earplugs, no every-day player tested positive. Sanchez (left) was released after 43 games with Tampa Bay; he latched on with the Giants for 19 more. The others spent most of their seasons in the minors.
Relief Pitchers (5) Agustin Montero, Rangers; Juan Rincon, Twins; Rafael Betancourt, Indians; Carlos Almanzar, Rangers; Heredia (left). Betancourt saw his ERA drop more than a run from 2004 (3.92 to 2.79) in nearly the same number of innings, but his ERA rose after his ban (2.21 to 3.48). Rincon's numbers were similar to his 2004 stats; the others hardly pitched in the majors in '05.
Starting Pitchers (1) Ryan Franklin, Mariners. If anyone suspended didn't look the part of a steroid user, it was Franklin (left). The righthanded beanpole was officially listed at 6'3" and 190 pounds--about what he's weighed the past three years. His velocity remained in the high 80s, and his pitching stats didn't improve. He proclaimed his innocence. "I honestly thought it was a joke," he said.
DAVID SEELIG/ICON SMI (FRANKLIN)
GARY I. ROTHSTEIN/ICON SMI (HEREDIA)
G. NEWMAN LOWRANCE/WIREIMAGE.COM (SANCHEZ)
MARK GOLDMAN/ICON SMI (PALMEIRO)