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

Orioles strikeouts continue, losing streak reaches four

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Orioles strikeouts continue, losing streak reaches four

Astros 4, Orioles 2 

Winner: McCullers (1-1) 
Loser:  Gausman  (0-2) 
Save: Giles (1) 

WHAT WENT WRONG: Kevin Gausman equaled his career high by allowing three home runs, two to George Springer and a two-run shot by Luis Valbuena.

The last time he allowed three homers was on May 28, 2013, his second major league start, against the Nationals.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Rookie Ashur Tolliver, who had been in the Orioles minor league system since 2009, made his major league debut with 1 1/3 scoreless innings. 

MORE ORIOLES: MANY UNDERSTUDIES FOR WIETERS

STREAKING THE WRONG WAY: The Orioles have lost four straight games for the first time this season. 

LATE OFFENSE: The Orioles had just two hits came in the first eight innings, a home run by Mark Trumbo in the second, and Hyun Soo Kim’s single in the sixth. 

In the ninth, Kim singled and came home on a long single by Manny Machado.

STRIKING OUT, STRIKING OUT: The Orioles struck out 15 times, enabling Houston pitchers to set a major league record with 52 in the three-game series.

LEAVING THEM ON: Lance McCullers walked the bases loaded in the fifth, but Matt Wieters struck out to end the inning.

OOPS: Machado made his third error in two games. 

GOODBYE VALBUENA: The Orioles will be happy to say goodbye to Luis Valbuena, who homered in all three games against the Orioles. He has seven lifetime home runs (against Baltimore.

UP NEXT: Mike Wright (2-3, 4.97) faces Trevor Bauer (3-2, 4.31) as the Orioles begin a three-game series in Cleveland on Friday night. 

Wieters has had many understudies in his Orioles time

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Wieters has had many understudies in his Orioles time

For the first time in his eight seasons with the Orioles, Matt Wieters has had lots of backup catchers. 

Caleb Joseph, who never saw Wieters catch a game with Orioles until last June, has been with the team since May 2014, and he’s arguably the most skilled of Wieters’ understudies. 

How many of these names do you recognize? 

When Wieters came up on May 29, 2009, he supplanted Gregg Zaun as the Orioles’ regular catcher. That was the plan all along, but Zaun was miffed at backing up the highly touted rookie, and he was sent to Tampa Bay in August. 

Chad Moeller was Wieters’ No. 2 for the remainder of 2009. 

MORE ORIOLES: HOT WIETERS PLAYING THREE STRAIGHT

Craig Tatum took over for Moeller in 2010 and he and Jake Fox were Wieters’ substitutes in 2011. 

A year later when the Orioles went on to the postseason for the first time in 14 years, Luis Exposito, Ronny Paulino and Taylor Teagarden were the catchers,

Teagarden returned in 2013, but was let go in late August. Steve Clevenger and Chris Snyder also caught that year. 

Clevenger began 2014 as Wieters’ backup, but when he was injured, Joseph was brought up from Norfolk, and Nick Hundley was acquired from San Diego. Hundley never played with the Orioles when Wieters was active. 

Last year, Ryan Lavarnway began the year as Joseph’s backup, but was cast aside after a few weeks. Clevenger also played in 2015. 

Wieters playing three in a row for first time since Tommy John

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Wieters playing three in a row for first time since Tommy John

It’s just under a year since Matt Wieters returned from Tommy John surgery, and it’s taken him that long for him to catch on three consecutive days. 

That used to happen all the time. In fact, he would often catch four straight as he did from Apr. 23-26, 2014, which was the last time he did that before undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2014. 

In 2015, Wieters didn’t catch on consecutive days for the first month he was back, and didn’t do it again until the season’s last month when he did it four times. 

MORE ORIOLES: WHEN WILL THE STRIKEOUTS STOP?

Asking him and manager Buck Showalter about his schedule last year was a tedious, but necessary exercise. Both Showalter and Wieters wanted him to catch more often, but they didn’t want to risk his elbow. 

Showalter said last summer that he was hoping to catch Wieters in three straight games then, but it’s taken until the season’s 45th game.

It doesn’t hurt that Wieters is 13-for-26 (.500) in his last six games, and that Caleb Joseph, his backup, has not driven in a run this season.