Houston Astros: Francis Martes out another season after PED ban

For the second consecutive spring, Houston Astros right-hander Francis Martes has been suspended for a positive PED test. This offense comes with a 162-game ban.

If you were to ask just about anyone in and around the Houston Astros organization what they needed to avoid this spring, the answer would probably be something along the lines of another controversy.

So much for that plan.

On Monday, Buster Olney of ESPN reported that righthander Francis Martes of the Astros has been hit with a 162-game suspension after testing positive for the anabolic steroid Boldenone.

It is the second PED suspension in two seasons for Martes, who drew an 80-game ban last spring after a positive test for Clomiphene, an ovulatory stimulant.

Martes had his 2018 season short-circuited by Tommy John surgery after throwing just 19.2 innings in the minor leagues.

He made his major-league debut for the Astros in June 2017 and spent the rest of the regular season with Houston before being left off the postseason roster. In 32 appearances, four of them starts, Martes had a 5.80 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 54.1 innings, allowing 51 hits and seven homers with 31 walks. His 1.509 WHIP was accompanied by an ERA+ of just 71.

His 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings was dramatically offset by allowing 5.1 walks per nine innings.

He had been rated as high as 15th among minor league prospects by Baseball America, but this will mark a third consecutive season he will not appear in the majors. Martes will be 25 years old by the time he is eligible to return next spring.

The native of the Dominican Republic was signed as an international free agent in November 2012 by the Miami Marlins and was acquired by the Astros along with Jake Marisnick, Colin Moran and a competitive balance round A pick in exchange for Jarred Cosart, Enrique Hernandez and minor-leaguer Austin Wales on July 31, 2014.

Martes was pitching in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League at the time, but moved through the organization to Double-A in 2015 and hit the Triple-A level for 32.1 innings in 2017 before getting the call from the big club.

Last season, he made just three appearances, making two starts in late August for the rookie-level Astros in Florida, allowing three runs — two earned — in 2.2 innings on four hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. He also started at Class-A Quad Cities on Sept. 1, allowing two runs on one hit with three walks and six strikeouts in 2.2 innings.

The encouraging part of that final start for Quad Cities was 15 swinging strikes in just 35 pitches after getting just six in 34 pitches over his two Gulf Coast League outings.

But the Houston Astros won’t get anything from Martes this season and he will have pitched just 25 innings over three seasons by the time he is eligible to return.

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Martes did made three relief appearances for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, allowing five runs on eight hits in 5.2 innings, striking out five and hitting two batters. It was his first offseason work since pitching in the Arizona Fall League in 2016.

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