Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz has been suspended 25 games for using an amphetamine. The suspension begins at the beginning of the 2013 season, which means Ruiz is unable to play until April 28 against the Mets at Citi Field.
The amphetamine in question is Adderall, a drug commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Amphetamines affect athletes differently than drugs such as steroids and growth hormone: instead of promoting muscle gain, amphetamines provide a burst of energy. Its effect varies from person to person, but Ruiz is one of many baseball players — including Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, and Barry Bonds — to have used them. Amphetamines were officially banned in Major League Baseball in 2006.
As a result of Ruiz’s 25-game suspension, the Phillies will be without their star catcher until April 28. GM Ruben Amaro said to reporters that the initial thought is to replace Ruiz internally, much like they did during the 2012 season when Ruiz missed time due to plantar fasciitis. This likely means Erik Kratz, the presumptive back-up to Ruiz, opens up the season as the starting catcher. Humberto Quintero, a veteran catcher recently signed to a Minor League deal, is the favorite for the back-up role but the Phillies will no doubt leave that open for competition.
For many, Ruiz’s failed drug test puts into question not only his great 2012 season in which he set many career highs (H, R, 2B, HR, RBI, AVG, SLG, OPS), but the entire progression of his career, from a light-hitting game-caller in 2007-08 to the backbone of the Phillies’ offense between 2010-12. In 114 games, Ruiz was the third-most valuable catcher in baseball in 2012 according to both FanGraphs WAR (5.5) and Baseball Reference WAR (4.4).
The news of Ruiz’s suspension comes at an unfortunate time in Philadelphia sports where none of the four major teams are providing much in the way of optimism. Fortunately, Ruiz will only be gone 25 games rather than the typical 50 games for players caught using steroids for the first time. Additionally, the Phillies will have four months to decide how to approach the beginning of the season without their backstop. In the grand scheme of things, this could have been worse and the Phillies should be able to get by without him in the first month of the season.