FORT MYERS, Fla. – When Jorge Polanco asked to meet with Paul Molitor and Derek Falvey on Sunday morning, the Twins’ top on-field and off-field leaders had no inkling what the shortstop had to say.
“Your first thought is, you’re worried, for him more than anything, worried that something is going on,” said Falvey, the team’s chief baseball officer. “When he shared it, we were saddened. Disappointed.”
Shocked, too. Polanco revealed that Major League Baseball had found stanozolol in his offseason drug test, had confirmed the original finding through a B sample, and had informed him in February that he would be suspended for 80 games. He had recently decided against the appeal he is entitled to, Polanco told them, and though he insists he didn’t knowingly take the steroid, he was ready to accept his punishment.
“It’s hard. I feel for my player,” said Molitor, the Twins manager who had stood by his starting shortstop despite some ragged spring performances that seems more understandable in light of Polanco’s secret. “And I respect the program and the policies that are in place to protect the game.”
So does Polanco, who reiterated during a brief Monday news conference that he believes he knows how the steroid entered his system. In a statement Sunday, he blamed a personal trainer in the Dominican Republic whom he asked for a routine dose of vitamin B12, though he declined Monday to elaborate or say how it was administered. He said he preferred to serve his time rather than fight an arduous and time-consuming battle to clear his name.
“It was difficult to drop the appeal,” Polanco said. “But out of respect to the organization, I did. I want to move forward, and I’m taking responsibility.”
He started by personally delivering the news to the Twins, rather than having MLB or his agent do it, and he continued Monday by apologizing publicly.
“I’m here to say that I’m really sorry to be in this situation,” Polanco said through team interpreter Elvis Martinez in a four-minute meeting with reporters as his agent, Ulises Cabrera, looked on. “I want to apologize to the entire Minnesota Twins organization, my fans, my family, my country the Dominican Republic, and just move on.”
Next comes apologizing to his teammates, which will probably happen Wednesday, and “I expect our guys to support him fully,” Molitor said. “No one lives in a glass house.”
Polanco already has been in touch with several Twins, and it’s been emotional.
“He’s sad. He was crying last night. We talked a lot,” said Miguel Sano, a fellow Dominican who is perhaps Polanco’s closest friend on the team. “It’s a bad spot for him, the team, his family. He told me he never tried to do [steroids].”
Center fielder Byron Buxton, Polanco’s teammate at three different stops in the Twins minor league system, traded texts with Polanco.
“I told him to keep your head up. You know we’ve got your back, things like that,” Buxton said. “He texted me back and said he appreciated it and was sorry. We all know it is a tough time for him. Just trying to be there for him and let him know that he has a shoulder to lean on.”
Brian Dozier is ready to offer one as well, though he also reiterated his support for the steroid-testing policy that the players negotiated with MLB three years ago.
“I do know this, that we as players want performance-enhancing drugs out of the equation for everybody. We don’t want it in our game, no part of it,” Dozier said. “We want a clean game.”
That being said, Dozier added: “People make mistakes. More than ever, he needs a little love right now. That’s my brother. So that comes first. He’s our brother and we’ve got his back.”
The suspension will cost Polanco at least $287,500, or half of his $575,000 salary, since he will miss 93 days of the 186-day MLB schedule before being eligible to return June 30. Should there be postponements that push the Twins’ 80th game into July, he will lose another $3,091 a day. He will lose credit for service time, too, and the Twins will be able to replace him on the 40-man roster.
But he won’t lose standing in the team’s eyes, Falvey said. Polanco will spend the three months at the team’s spring complex, taking part in extended spring training games and working out. In June, he will be eligible for a 20-day minor league assignment in anticipation of rejoining the team.
And he will continue to be valued by the organization that signed him as a 16-year-old in 2010.
“Guys make mistakes. He’s someone who admitted it right from the get-go, and we’re going to support him,” Falvey said. “I truly believe he’s a good kid. He made a mistake, and now it’s our job to support him as his baseball family.”
Staff writer La Velle E. Neal III contributed to this report.