July 06, 2007

DETROIT (AP) -- Detroit Tigers infielder Neifi Perez was suspended 25 games Friday, the first player penalized for testing positive for a stimulant under Major League Baseball's drug program.

Perez, a seldom-used utility player, is hitting .172 with one home run and six RBIs in 64 at-bats in the team's first 83 games. He is a former Gold Glove shortstop, in 2000 with the Colorado Rockies. He also has played for Kansas City, San Francisco and the Chicago Cubs.

"I say to my fans that I am not stupid. I know the difference between good and bad and there are things that are going to be known going forward, but my lawyer has advised me not to talk for now," Perez told the Dominican radio program Impacto Deportivo in his homeland.

The suspension takes effect immediately. The 34-year-old Perez would be eligible to return Aug. 4 against the White Sox. Depending on off days, Perez will lose about $400,000 of his $2.5 million salary.

"The Tigers fully support Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program," the team said in a statement.

Contrary to baseball's rules, which require the clubhouse be open to reporters 31/2 hours before a game, Detroit's clubhouse at Comerica Park was closed to the media because of a team meeting.

Messages seeking comment were left with Perez's agent, Paul Kinzer, and Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski.

The Tigers purchased the contract of outfielder Ryan Raburn from Triple-A Toledo to take Perez's place on the 25-man roster.

Under its drug-testing program, baseball doesn't release the names of players who test positive for amphetamines the first time, which results in counseling. The player then is subjected to at least six additional tests over the next year. Stimulants were banned prior to the 2006 season.

Under the policy, a third positive test for amphetamines results in an 80-game suspension. A fourth brings a lifetime ban.

Just one player has been suspended for performance-enhancing substances this year under MLB's drug program: Tampa Bay Devil Rays relief pitcher Juan Salas received a 50-game penalty on May 7. The right-hander was reinstated Tuesday.

In 2007, baseball also has penalized 16 players for doping violations under its minor league program. Nine were suspended 50 games each for taking performance-enhancing drugs, and New York Mets minor leaguer Jorge Reyes was banned for 100 games for a second positive test. Four were suspended for using drugs of abuse; one for failure to test; and one for unspecified doping violations.

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