Mets pitcher Mejia gets 162-game drug ban

(Reuters) - New York Mets relief pitcher Jenrry Mejia has been suspended for 162 games after testing positive for banned substances a second time, Major League Baseball said on Tuesday.

The length of the ban is automatic for a second positive test, and equals the longest suspension in baseball for doping, matching the penalty handed New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez in 2013.

Mejia’s suspension is effective immediately and is equivalent to an entire regular season. It came after the right-hander tested positive for steriods stanozolol and boldenone, MLB said.

Major League Baseball and the players’ association last year agreed to increase the penalty for a second positive steroid test to 162 games.

Mejia returned to the majors barely two weeks ago, and had pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings, after serving out a previous 80-game suspension for a performance-enhancing substance violation on April 11, 2015.

The 25-year-old from the Dominican Republic has played 113 major league games, all for the Mets, including seven this year. His career ERA is 3.68.

The Mets said they were “extremely disappointed” about the news.

“We fully support MLB’s policy toward eliminating performance-enhancing substances from the sport,” they said in a statement.

Mejia did not immediately comment on his latest suspension, but in April, he denied knowingly taking banned drugs.

“I can honestly say I have no idea how a banned substance ended up in my system,” Mejia said in a statement issued by the players union.

The loss of Mejia comes on the heels of the Mets’ acquiring reliever Tyler Clippard from the Oakland Athletics.

The Mets (51-48) are second in the National League East, two games behind the Washington Nationals.

Rodriguez originally was suspended for 211 games two years ago for what baseball said was overwhelming evidence he obtained illegal performance-enhancing substances from the now-shuttered Biogenesis clinic in Florida, and that he also tried to hamper their investigation into those allegations.

The suspension was reduced to 162 games on appeal and Rodriguez is now back in uniform for the Yankees.

Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Gene Cherry