J.C. Romero is currently pitching in the Phillies’ preseason camp in Clearwater, Fla. He’s getting in early preparation, but he’s going to have plenty of time to get ready for the season after his teammates have already started playing. Why? Because he’s due to serve a 50-game suspension as soon the season kicks off.
During the 2008 season, Romero tested positive for a banned substance. That’s not radical. What is stunning is his own defense, in which he says that the Phillies’ doctors cleared the supplements he bought from GNC and, to make matters worse, that he didn’t even realize Major League Baseball had set up a drug hotline for players to clear the supplements through. Romero’s blaming his suspension — which will cost him $1.3 million — on bad communication by MLB officials, and he may have a point.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark has the story from Phillies camp, where Romero is said to be moving on but doing so with some understandable bitterness. After all, losing the first two months of his season is going to cost him a pretty penny.
“They probably did. But we have meetings at 7:30 in the morning, sometimes 8:30 in the morning in spring training. You can take most of the people here, and 8:30 in the morning, their bosses start talking, and they’re not going to pay attention to everything they say. …
“So I’m not trying to say that they didn’t say that to me. But I would say I didn’t know about the 1-800 number. I didn’t have any reason to believe I was doing anything wrong because I was very careful from the get-go. Since the system was in place, I was very careful about it. I was trying to really do things the right way because really, I didn’t want none of this to happen.
“I have players who are superstars in the game, and they’re good friends of mine,” he said. “And they ask me, ‘WHAT 1-800 number?’ So there’s definitely a communication thing going on here.”
That won’t help Romero get over losing more than a million bucks over $53 in supplements, but it does help explain why he’d be willing to openly crusade for better communication. It might to late to help him, but maybe he can save some teammates or Puerto Rican countrymen from the same fine, particularly if — as he claims — the league does a notably bad job of explaining all the drug regulations to Spanish speaking players.