CLEARWATER, Fla. -- He sat on a picnic table behind the ballpark he calls home each spring, the sweat beads pouring off his forehead, the questions causing him to squirm uncomfortably.
For Carlos Ruiz, it isn’t Opening Day that awaits him in a month and a half. It’s a 25-game suspension for testing positive for Adderall, a banned amphetamine. So on Wednesday, it was his turn to take questions he’d clearly been dreading for weeks.
The first week of spring training 2013 has turned into a banned-substance alibi tour. But for the All-Star catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, at least there were no alibis given. He “got caught two times” with Adderall in his system, he admitted. And now, he said, “I have to pay for that.”
But if it’s explanations you want for how Ruiz came to be “caught two times,” there were no explanations given, either. The questions came flying at him for seven minutes, until the Phillies’ media relations staff decided he’d said enough. But Ruiz offered no details on why he was taking Adderall without an ADHD exemption.
More tellingly, he provided no details about why he continued to take this drug even after testing positive for it the first time last season -- a positive test that meant, among other things, that he knew he’d be tested again at least eight times a year.
So he knew. Remember that. And yet he didn’t stop.
That speaks to the powerful psychological hold Adderall often has on those who take it regularly. And it certainly casts doubt on whether Ruiz can be the same player without it that he was last year, when he hit .325 AVG./.394 OBP/.540 SLG/.935 OPS, made the All-Star team and was almost certainly the MVP of an injury-ravaged team.
Then again, it isn’t safe yet to assume he has taken Adderall for the last time, either. Remember that, too.
Baseball DOES permit players to take this drug, you see -- as long as a physician and MLB’s Medical Advisory Panel sign off on it. A record 116 players received therapeutic-use exemptions for ADHD last season, according to the commissioner’s office. And there is no reason to believe Ruiz won’t apply for a similar exemption this year.
However, when he was asked Wednesday whether seeking an exemption and a legal prescription were a possibility, Ruiz replied: “That’s something that’s between my doctor and me.” And that was as far as he was willing to go.
Yet Ruiz’s manager, Charlie Manuel, said Wednesday his catcher had told him the day before: “I would never do it [again]. Believe me. I won’t do it no more.”
Manuel said that he and Ruiz had a long conversation about this issue Tuesday. And the manager said: “I got on him. I mean, I got on him pretty good. And I think he reacted real good.”
Asked if he was concerned about the strong hold this drug might have had on Ruiz, Manuel answered: “Just knowing him like I have for, what, nine, 10 years, ever since I’ve been here, I trust him. So I don’t think it will be a problem at all. I don’t think it’s reached that point.
“I don’t think he’ll ever do it again,” Manuel went on. “That’s what I think, [based on] how he reacted to some of the things I said to him. He was definitely shook up. And you could tell that he felt real bad about what happened.”
As evidence of that feeling "real bad,” Ruiz spent much of his media session offering apologies -- to his teammates, to his employers, to his fans, to his family. But apologies don’t change this. And apologies don’t fix this. That’s the cold reality of life in a drug-tested sport. And now he’s living it. But he’s not the only one.
“He made a mistake. He’s going to pay for it,” said Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. “And WE’RE going to pay for it. But we have to move forward.”