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Phils' Ruiz suspended 25 games after positive test

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Phils' Ruiz suspended 25 games after positive test

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Add catcher to the Philadelphia Phillies' needs this offseason.

All-Star Carlos Ruiz was suspended Tuesday for the first 25 games of next season following a positive test for an amphetamine. The 33-year-old catcher had a career year in 2012, hitting .325 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 114 games.

``I am sincerely regretful for my mistake in taking a prohibited stimulant,'' Ruiz said in a statement issued by the Major League Baseball Players Association. ``I apologize to my teammates, the Phillies organization and the Philadelphia fans. I will serve the imposed 25-game suspension to begin the season and I look forward to returning to the field and working toward bringing a championship back to Philadelphia in 2013.''

Ruiz will be eligible to participate in spring training, including exhibition games.

``The Phillies fully support Major League Baseball's drug program,'' the team said. ``We are disappointed by the news of this violation of the program. We will support Carlos in an appropriate manner and move forward to achieve our goal to play championship-caliber baseball in 2013.''

Erik Kratz will likely begin the 2013 season as Philadelphia's starting catcher while Ruiz serves his suspension. Kratz, a career minor-leaguer, filled in nicely when he finally got a chance after Ruiz went down with a foot injury. Kratz hit .248, but had nine doubles, nine homers and 26 RBIs in only 141 at-bats. Kratz also threw out 45 percent of base-stealers (15 of 33).

Still, losing Ruiz hurts a lineup that struggled mightily last year. Ruiz moved up from his usual No. 8 spot and took over for an injured Ryan Howard as the team's cleanup hitter for a chunk of the season. He batted fifth after Howard returned in July.

The Phillies, who finished 81-81 after winning five straight NL East titles, have several holes to fill. Only Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are certain regulars. Utley, though, didn't play until late May in 2011 and late June in 2012 because of chronic knee injuries.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. hopes to add a starting center fielder, another starting outfielder and a third baseman either through free agency or trades. Now he'll also need a backup catcher for Kratz for the first month. Brian Schneider served as the team's primary backup the last three seasons, but only batted .212 in 122 games.

The Phillies have two top prospects catching in the minors. Sebastian Valle hit .253 with 17 homers and 58 RBIs in 80 games at Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Tommy Joseph, acquired in the trade that sent Hunter Pence to San Francisco, hit .257 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs for the Giants' and Phillies' Double-A affiliates.

Ruiz became the eighth player suspended this year under the major league testing program, the second for amphetamines following Baltimore shortstop Ryan Adams. The eight suspensions are the most since 2007.

This had to be Ruiz's second positive test for a stimulant. An initial positive for a stimulant does not trigger a suspension, only that the player must undergo follow-up testing.

There have been 102 suspensions this year under the minor league testing program.

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter:https://twitter.com/RobMaaddi

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Orioles defend first place as series begins north of the border

Orioles defend first place as series begins north of the border

Tonight's Game:

Baltimore Orioles (58-43) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (57-45), Rogers Centre, Toronto, 7:07 p.m.

Starting pitchers:

Kevin Gausman (2-7, 3.77 ERA) vs. Marco Estrada (5-4, 2.94 ERA)

Keys to the Game:

— Is this the first big series of the season for the Orioles? They lead the Blue Jays by 1 1/2 games. The teams have split the first 10 games of the season. 

— Will the bats wake up? The Orioles continue to slumber at the plate. The team has lost three consecutive games, scoring jsut six runs in the process.

News and Notes:

— Gausman is looking for his first road win since Aug. 17, 2014.

— Gausman is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 10 games against the Blue Jays. 

— Current Blue Jays are batting .239 against Gausman. 

— Estrada is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in eight games against the Orioles. 

— Current Orioles are batting .190 against Estrada. 

— Adam Jones is 1-for-12 (.083) against Estrada. Ryan Flaherty is 3-for-9 (.333) with two home runs.

— Chris Davis has three hits in the last two games after going hitless in seven of eight games since the All-Star Break.

RELATED: HOW THE HOME RUN DERBY IS IMPACTING THE ORIOLES' BATS

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Despaigne allows four key runs in 6-2 Orioles loss

Despaigne allows four key runs in 6-2 Orioles loss

Twins 6, Orioles 2

Winner-Pressly (5-5)
Loser-Despaigne (0-2)

THE GOOD: In his first start since July 8, Ubaldo Jimenez delivered a creditable performance against the Twins. Jimenez allowed one run on five hits in five innings. He struck out eight and walked three. 

THE BAD: Odrisamer Despaigne followed Jimenez and he gave up four runs on five hits in 1 1/3 innings. The Twins scored four runs in the seventh to break a 2-2 tie.

Chaz Roe allowed the sixth run. 

The Orioles had won the first five games of the season series with the Twins.

MORE ORIOLES: HOW HR DERBY HAS AFFECTED O'S (OR NOT) IN PAST

THE UGLY: How often are two runners tagged out at home in one inning? 

In the fourth inning, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo were thrown out at home on consecutive plays. 

Third baseman Eduardo Escobar threw home to nab Davis. Right fielder Max Kepler fired home to catch Trumbo. 

BREAKING THE SLUMP: Trumbo had been 0-for-18 until his fourth inning double. 

Chris Davis, who broke an 0-for-24 slump with a bunt single on Wednesday night, went 2-for-4. 

JOSEPH WITH NO RBIS: With his 0-for-3, Caleb Joseph now has 101 at-bats without an RBI.

LEADING IT OFF: Adam Jones hit his third leadoff home run on Kyle Gibson’s first pitch of the game. Jones has 19 this season. 

With his next home run, Jones will become the fourth Oriole to hit 20 this season. 

Jonathan Schoop has 17. If he hits three more, the Orioles will have five 20 home run hitters for the first time since 2012.

UP NEXT: The Orioles begin a three-game series in Toronto against the Blue Jays on Friday night. Kevin Gausman (2-7, 3.77) faces Marco Estrada (5-4, 2.94).

The Orioles (58-43) lead Toronto (57-43) by 1 ½ games in the AL East. 

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In context of Trumbo, a look at post-HR Derby power numbers for O's

In context of Trumbo, a look at post-HR Derby power numbers for O's

Mark Trumbo grounded out to short in his first at-bat on Thursday night. His hitless streak grew to 0-for-18 before a fourth-inning double, and he didn’t deny after Wednesday night’s game that he was tired. 

As can be expected, some readers have suggested that Trumbo’s participation in this month’s Home Run Derby hurt him.

Actually, Trumbo historically has lagged after the All-Star break. In his career, he bats .239 in the second half, 26 points lower than the first half. 

He hit 28 home runs before the All-Star break, and just two since. 

MORE ORIOLES: MOST UNIQUE BALLPARK FOOD YOU'LL FIND IN MLB STADIUMS

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Trumbo has gone somewhat south. He’s played in each of the Orioles games, and didn’t have an All-Star break.

In fact after the Orioles had a grueling 10-game road trip to San Diego, Seattle and Los Angeles, they came home for three games and then Trumbo and his teammates flew back out west for the All-Star Game, then back East for the start of the second half. 

Last year, similar carping was heard about Manny Machado. He had 19 home runs at the All-Star break, participated in the Home Run Derby, then finished the year with 35.

In 2014, Adam Jones had 16 home runs prior to the Home Run Derby and 13 afterward, and in 2013, Chris Davis had 37 pre-All-Star Game and 16 in the second half.