TORONTO – Braves left-hander Andrew McKirahan has been suspended 80 games for using a performance-enhancing substance, the second drug suspension for an Atlanta rookie relief pitcher in less than three weeks.
Arodys Vizcaino was suspended 80 games without pay on April 2 after testing positive for Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance. That suspension came one day after the Braves claimed McKirahan, 25, on waivers from the Marlins in the last week of spring training.
McKirahan was a Rule 5 pick from the Cubs in December, and thus would’ve had to stay on the Braves’ roster all season or be offered back to the Cubs at half the original $50,000 claiming price. Vizcaino, 24, was also in the Cubs’ organization last season.
“Obviously we’re very disappointed with this one,” Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said of the McKirahan suspension. “This is a guy who was beginning to make himself felt in our bullpen. As you know we’ve had a lot of dings in that bullpen.”
The Braves were informed of the suspension a day after McKirahan retired both batters he faced, including one strikeout, in a 5-2 win Sunday at Toronto in his third appearance. He has allowed three hits and two runs in 4 1/3 innings, with one walk and two strikeouts.
Although he wasn’t one of the five relievers the Braves have used consistently in their wins this season, McKirahan has impressed the Braves and seemed poised for a bigger role in a bullpen sorely lacking in depth.
While the Braves planned to look outside for a possible replacement, they might have to go with someone from their minor league system for now, since it’s difficult to acquire quality pitching from other teams this early in the season.
McKirahan missed parts of two seasons following Tommy John surgery, before bouncing back with a strong performance in 2014. The lefty posted a 2.08 ERA with 10 saves and 57 strikeouts in 65 innings in high-Class A and Double-A.
The Braves claimed McKirahan despite his lack of experience because they badly needed another lefty, after releasing disappointing veteran James Russell late in spring training, eating just over $600,000, or one-fourth of his salary in a one-year contract he signed this winter.
They placed lefty reliever Josh Outman, an offseason free-agent signee, on the 60-day disabled list with thoracic outlet syndrome after he experienced tightness near his collarbone during spring training.
Prospect Feigl was recently shut down with an elbow injury that may require surgery, after he pushed for a roster spot in spring training.
“From a club perspective we’re obviously disappointed in this one,” Hart said of McKirahan’s suspension. “From a depth standpoint, we lost Shae Simmons to Tommy John (elbow surgery in January), and Vizcaino was suspended. And Feigl, it looks like potentially he may need Tommy John. This (McKirahan suspension) is sort of a double whammy in that we lost a guy we were looking at in the bullpen and we’ve lost some other weapons.”
Vizcaino, 24, is his second stint with the Braves after being re-acquired from the Cubs in an offseason trade for second baseman Tommy La Stella. He was suspended three days after being dropped from the spring-training roster, after giving up nine hits, eight walks and eight runs in eight innings of seven Grapefruit League appearances.