JUPITER, Fla. -- Former Phillies reliever J.C. Romero was predictably one of the more interested spectators in the successful appeal of a 50-game drug suspension by Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun late last month.
Romero, who signed with the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals in December, said his appeal of a 50-game suspension after the 2008 season was also ruled upon by Shyam Das, the same independent arbitrator who decided on Braun’s behalf based on the handling -- or mishandling -- of the drug test itself.
A 50-game suspension was upheld in Romero’s case and he served it at the start of the 2009 season after winning two games during the Phillies' 2008 World Series victory over Tampa Bay. He had actually tested positive in July 2008 and appealed the case in August, which allowed him to pitch in the 2008 postseason.
Romero said at the time of his appeal that he thoroughly investigated supplements he purchased at nutritional stores in Cherry Hill and his winter home in Fairhope, Ala., but he was deemed negligent and suspended after his arbitration hearing.
Romero subsequently filed a civil lawsuit against the nutritional supplement manufacturer and the case was settled for an undisclosed amount in January. He lost $1.25 million in salary because of the suspension.
Romero was asked about Braun’s case Monday.
“If I knew what I know now, I would have taken an outside lawyer,” Romero said. “But I think at the time nobody thought I was going to be suspended because it was obvious that I took contaminated supplements. It just happened that the arbitrator, which was the same arbitrator in Braun’s case, found me negligent. I didn’t have any high levels of testosterone, but it’s a different case. I don’t want to get that involved in it. It was three years ago.”
Romero, who was released by the Phillies last June and finished the season in Colorado, said he was happy for Braun.
“I’m glad that he didn’t have to serve a 50-game suspension, because that (stinks) for anybody,” Romero said. “As far as what happened in that arbitration hearing, I have no idea. But if you really paid attention to my case, it’s obvious that I was innocent. All this negligence bullcrap that he decided to suspend me for, it’s just uncalled for, but, hey, I have to be professional about it.”
Romero said the Braun case did not bring back any bad memories for him, but it does still bother him that he is perceived as “a cheater” by some people.
“Not really,” he said. “I let it go. I don’t hold any grudges and people make mistakes. In my case, it’s just sad that I have to put up with public opinion and now I’m the one who has to answer questions. I wish people would go and ask (the manufacturer) questions and the other people involved questions because then they would understand what really went on in my case.
“But it was a totally different case and I know I have peace of mind that I didn’t (knowingly) put anything abnormal in my system. It’s very unfortunate that I couldn’t win my case, but nobody thought it was even going to go to arbitration, so it kind of caught everybody off guard once MLB decided to take the case to arbitration. It was a clear no-brainer case.”
Roy O. will return
The Cardinals’ Lance Berkman, who is charged with the monumental task of replacing the departed Albert Pujols at first base this season, said he has talked to former Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt since he decided not to sign with any team before the season. Berkman and Oswalt, of course, were longtime teammates in Houston.
“Knowing Roy like I know him, I wasn’t surprised,” Berkman said. “I think you’ll see him again. I don’t think he’s done for good. I really feel like you’ll probably see this year somewhere. His point was valid. He wasn’t getting great offers from places he wanted to play and he was like, ‘Look, they’ll probably be willing to pay me for half a season what they wanted to pay me for a full season.’ In that regard, it’s not a bad idea. It’s a little unorthodox, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him.”
In the meantime, Berkman thinks Oswalt will be content during his time away from the game.
“He’s good with turkey hunting and bass fishing and doing that for the spring and then he’ll see what happens in the middle of the summer,” Berkman said.