Phillies Showing Leniency Towards Performance-Enhancing Drug Usage

Sep 30, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Alec Asher (49) pitches during the first inning against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Alec Asher (49) pitches during the first inning against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

The Phillies’ acquisition of pitcher David Rollins has brought PED usage back into the spotlight, and the club is showing leniency towards it.

Friday afternoon the Phillies made some waves when they claimed pitcher David Rollins off waivers and designated Cody Asche for assignment to make room for Rollins on the roster. While the initial reaction to the move was centered around Asche’s tenure in Philadelphia ending, the focus has shifted to Rollins and his past.

Rollins started off his career in the Blue Jays system but was sent to the Houston Astros in 2012 as part of a ten-player trade. The Seattle Mariners selected him the in the 2014 Rule 5 draft – the same one where the Phillies selected Odubel Herrera – after Houston left him off their 40-man roster.

Despite Rule 5 picks being required to be kept in the majors for the entire season if their team wants to keep them, Rollins didn’t debut until July of 2015. Why? Rollins was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid. He told Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune that he used the Stanozolol to accelerate the recovery from an injury sustained in winter-league action.

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Per Dutton, Rollins felt remorseful over the event. He said, “It was a mistake on my part. It was very bad judgment by myself, and I’ve been regretting it ever since.”

Even if Rollins regrets the incident, it’s clear that it has affected his value. The Phillies are his fourth team in less than a month after being placed on waivers by Seattle, Chicago, and Texas. Rollins has a career 7.60 ERA in 31 major-league games, so that isn’t helping his case either.

With Rollins already having one strike on his record, he doesn’t have much room for error. If he is popped for PEDs again, he will serve a 162-game suspension, which would likely end his career. Few, if any, teams would take a gamble on a player who is one failed drug test away from a lifetime ban. This would hopefully deter Rollins, but he may wind up looking for any help he can get to stay on a roster.

Rollins isn’t the only player on the roster that has a history with PEDs. Pitcher Alec Asher served an 80-game suspension for PEDs this season, but returned to the team at the end of the season and is one of the candidates for the fifth rotation spot next spring. Freddy Galvis received a 50-game suspension back in 2012 after testing positive for Clostebol, another steroid. In addition, Rule 5 pick Daniel Stumpf also served a PED suspension before being returned to the Royals.

The team may have set an unwanted precedent by claiming Rollins despite his known PED history. Chuck Booth of FanSided’s “Section 215” blog said:

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"“Claiming Rollins sends a message that past PED use is okay, and that’s the wrong message to send. Rollins says that the mistake came following an injury in winter ball when he was trying to speed up the recovery process.As an athlete, that excuse doesn’t work as you should know what is going into your body at all times. With the stricter regulations of PEDs around the league, it’s imperative that a close eye is kept on these things.”"

This is certainly speculation, the known PED users on the major-league roster may negatively influence other players.

A player may view PEDs as the extra boost they need to earn that next promotion or make the major-league roster. Seeing Asher and Rollins on the roster may convey the idea that PED usage is somehow okay. The Phils’ new leniency towards the issue may wind up unintentionally encouraging players on the fence about using PEDs.

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While people do deserve second chances, Rollins’s, Galvis’s and Asher’s presence on the roster could wind up being a negative influence. If they truly are remorseful and regret using PEDs, than the club shouldn’t have to worry about another suspension coming. Even then, their acceptance of PED usage may wind up encouraging someone who otherwise wouldn’t use them.