PHOENIX – Milwaukee Brewers catcher Pedro Severino has been suspended 80 games without pay for the use of the performance-enhancing substance clomiphene, Major League Baseball announced Tuesday.
Also known as Clomid, clomiphene is an anti-estrogenic substance most commonly used to aid fertility in women. It is not approved by the FDA for use by men for any condition but can alter testosterone levels.
“The Milwaukee Brewers join Major League Baseball in its efforts to erase performance-enhancing drugs from our game,” president of baseball operations David Stearns said in a statement released by the team.
“The organization fully supports MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. We also support Pedro during this time and will welcome him back upon the conclusion of his discipline.”
Severino, 28, signed a one-year, $1.9 million contract Nov. 19 to serve as the backup to all-star Omar Narváez after the Atlanta Braves signed former longtime backup Manny Piña to a two-year, $8 million deal four days earlier.
Severino released a statement through the Major League Baseball Players Association shortly after his suspension was announced.
“I recently learned that I tested positive for Clomiphene, a prohibited substance under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
“Since late 2020, my wife and I had been trying to start a family unsuccessfully. When we returned to the Dominican Republic after the 2021 season, we sought medical assistance to determine why we had not succeeded. One of the doctors I consulted with prescribed me with a medication to treat infertility issues. Unfortunately, I now know that the medication contained Clomiphene.
“I accept responsibility for this mistake and have decided not to challenge my suspension. I have been a professional baseball player since I was 16 years old, and I have also been in the big leagues for parts of seven seasons. I have been tested over 100 times in my career and I have never had an issue.
“With that said, I want to apologize to the Milwaukee Brewers organization, the staff, my teammates and our fans for letting you down. I hope you guys can accept me back in July and we can have a great second half.”
Severino arrived in Phoenix for the start of camp having never caught any of Milwaukee’s pitchers and needing to digest a wealth of information in a short period of time, a task manager Craig Counsell acknowledged likely would carry over to the start of the season.
The accelerated learning curve didn’t affect Severino’s offense, however, as he hit .435 with two home runs, nine runs beaten in and an OPS of 1.306.
“Pedro worked extremely hard for the last four weeks,” Counsell said. “I think he had a great camp in just how hard he worked and how hard he tried to get up to speed. There was still going to be a process, but he covered a lot of ground — probably more than we expected.”
A veteran of 362 games over seven years in the major leagues, Severino is a career .235 hitter with 33 homers, 133 RBI and an OPS of .677.
He’s coming off his best season — his third with the Baltimore Orioles — in which he produced a line of .247/11/46/.690 while playing in a career-high 113 games.
With Severino out of the picture until at least early July, the Brewers’ next internal options would be Mario Feliciano and Brett Sullivan, who have combined for one major-league plate appearance.
Counsell said earlier in camp he viewed Feliciano and Sullivan as equal on the depth chart, although Feliciano is Milwaukee’s No. 7 overall prospect as ranked by the Journal Sentinel.
A right-handed hitter, Feliciano made his Brewers debut last May with the team caught in a bind behind the plate. He was sent back to Class AAA Nashville after one game, however, due to a shoulder impingement and missed two months.
“Mario’s been a prospect in our organization for a long time and he’s always been young for his level,” Stearns said. “He’s an incredibly talented kid, and we know him very well.
“The key for Mario is staying on the field. Because of some of the injuries he’s had over the course of his career, he just hasn’t accumulated the amount of games behind the plate, the number of plate appearances you would like to see for a catcher as they work through a system.
“So much of catching is experiential learning, and he just hasn’t had that quite yet. We’re certainly hoping he can do that this year and make up for some lost time.”
Sullivan, a left-handed hitter, signed a one-year deal with the Brewers in the offseason after hitting .223/9/35/.678 in 90 games with Durham — the Tampa Bay Rays’ Class AAA affiliate — in 2021.
He’s logged 593 games in the minors since being drafted in the 17th round in 2015.
“Brett is a guy that we brought in because we believe he can help at the major-league level,” Stearns said. “It’s a good zone-control bat; he’s proven that throughout his minor-league career. He has positional versatility and we believe that he’s made strides behind the plate.
“So, if we have to go with either of those guys, we’ll feel comfortable doing it and I think either of them can handle a major-league staff right now.”
There’s also the possibility Milwaukee could seek to add a veteran backup via a waiver claim or a trade. Stearns said the Brewers have known about the suspension since Monday, which is when Severino informed them.
“Right now, we’re looking at both our internal options, which are Mario and Sully, and we’re also evaluating what could be available externally,” Stearns said. “This time of year, this timeframe of a couple of days before opening day, is not ideal to be looking for a specific team need, but we’re already actively engaged in conversations.
“We’ll see if anything comes of that in the next 24-48 hours, and if not we have confidence in what we have internally.”
Counsell was asked about the poor timing of the suspension, considering Milwaukee opens its season Thursday afternoon against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
“I’m not concerned,” he said. “We’re going to have things happen the fifth day of the season, the 10th day of the season.
“Things are going to happen. Players are going to get injured or be unavailable, and that’s just part of a baseball season.”
Counsell also said he wouldn’t lean any harder on Narváez in the wake of Severino’s absence. An all-star last season, Narváez played in 123 games, with 100 starts at catcher.
“I think that would be a mistake for us to ask Omar to do more,” he said. “I think that would be a mistake on our part, especially earlier in a season.”
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Brewers catcher Pedro Severino suspended 80 games by MLB for PED use