Four minor leaguers suspended for drug violations

NEW YORK -- Four minor league pitchers were suspended 50 games each by the commissioner's office Tuesday for violating baseball's minor league drug program, the first penalties since the sport toughened its rules during the offseason.

Two of the pitchers were in the Cincinnati Reds' organization: Ramon Ramirez and Justin Mallet. Also suspended were Waner Mateo of the New York Mets and Ryan Rafferty of the Kansas City Royals.

None has ever pitched in the majors.

Mallet was penalized for testing positive for a drug of abuse. The others tested positive for performance-enhancing substances.

The penalty this year for an initial positive test was increased from 15 games to 50 for players with minor league contracts. For major-leaguers, the punishment was lengthened from 10 days to 50 games.

There were 81 suspensions last season for violations of the minor league drug program.