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Twins' Santana suspended 80 games

(USA TODAY Sports) Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Ervin Santana pitches during the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates March 13 at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Florida.

By Brian Murphy

St. Paul Pioneer Press

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Major League Baseball suspended Twins pitcher Ervin Santana 80 games for testing positive for steroids, the league announced Friday.

Minnesota will lose its No. 2 starter and its historic free-agent acquisition — four years, $55 million — for half of his debut season with the club after Santana tested positive for the steroid Stanozolol, according to MLB.

“We were disappointed to learn of the suspension of Ervin Santana for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” the Twins said in a statement.

“We fully support Major League Baseball’s policy and its efforts to eliminate performance enhancing substances from our game. Per the protocol outlined in the Joint Drug Program, the Minnesota Twins will not comment further on this matter.”

The Twins recalled right-hander Aaron Thompson from Triple-A Rochester to replace Santana on the roster but did not announce whether he would take his place in the rotation.

Santana was scheduled to start the second game of the season Wednesday in Detroit.

Thompson was optioned to Rochester on Tuesday after making seven spring appearances, going 1-1 with a 2.16 earned-run average (8.1 IP, 2 ER), two walks and six strikeouts.

Veteran starter Mike Pelfrey, demoted this spring to the bullpen, is the leading candidate to replace Santana in the rotation. Santana, 32, became the highest-paid free agent in franchise history when the Twins signed him in December.

He is 119-100 with a 4.17 ERA in 10 major-league seasons, mostly with the Los Angeles Angels.

Santana released a lengthy statement through the players association saying he would “never knowingly take anything illegal to enhance my performance.”

“I am frustrated that I can’t pinpoint how the substance in question entered my body. What I can guarantee is I never knowingly took anything illegal to enhance my performance. That’s just not me, never has been and never will.

“I serve as a role model for many kids in my home country who dream of playing at the highest level. I would never put baseball, my family, or my country in a position where its integrity is jeopardized. I preach hard work and don’t believe in short cuts.

“Moving forward, I need to be more careful on what I consume in my home country. I will be more vigilant of medications I take so that I don’t commit another mistake. Having said that, I believe it is best to move forward and accept the punishment as set forth in Joint Drug Agreement. All I can do now is continue to work hard, and when the suspension is up, come back to doing what I love.”

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.