Mets minor-leaguer hit with first 50-game penalty

NEW YORK -- Mets minor-league pitcher Yusaku Iriki was suspended for 50 games Friday after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, making him the first player to be penalized under Major League Baseball's toughened steroid rules.

The 33-year-old Iriki agreed to a one-year, $750,000 deal with the Mets in January after spending his entire career in Japan. He was playing at Triple-A Norfolk this season and was on the Mets' 40-man roster.

Iriki was 1-2 with a 3.74 ERA in four starts at Norfolk. He had not been in the majors.

Last year, Iriki would have received a 10-day penalty under MLB's drug rules. During the offseason, owners and players agreed to increase the penalties to 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third.

"The Mets are obviously disappointed that a member of our organization has tested positive. The Mets are fully supportive of Major League Baseball's joint drug policy," the team said in a statement.

There have been 10 players suspended this season under the minor-league program, including an Arizona pitching prospect for 100 games.

Iriki was 35-35 with three saves and a 3.73 ERA in 212 games during eight seasons in Japan. The right-hander was an All-Star in 2001.