Minnesota Twins pitcher Michael Pineda was suspended for 60 games Saturday for taking a diuretic, a big blow to the rotation of a first-place team heading toward the postseason. Major League Baseball said Pineda tested positive for the banned substance and the suspension takes effect immediately. The 6-foot-7-inch and 280-pound righthander said in a statement he took an over-the-counter medication given to him by an acquaintance to help manage his weight. The pills contained hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic that can mask other substances. The suspension came one day after a strong start by Pineda against the Indians. Pineda (11-5, 4.01 ERA) will miss the Twins’ final 21 games plus any postseason games. Entering Saturday, Minnesota led the AL Central by 5½ games. Pineda will forfeit $989,247 of his $8 million salary. He is eligible for free agency after the season and would serve the rest of the suspension next year. The suspension originally was for 80 games but the players’ association contested it and the penalty was reduced to 60 by arbitrator Mark Irvings under the drug agreement’s mitigation procedure, a person familiar with the process told the Associated Press. ‘‘Michael Pineda is a big member of this team in a lot of different ways, beyond the field as well as on it,’’ Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said before the Twins held a team meeting preceeding their game at home against Cleveland. ‘‘Because of that, it does create a challenge. Our team has been pretty resilient with everything that’s been thrown at it to this point, and I think we’re going to have the ability to acknowledge this and process what’s going on and still continue to go out there and do our jobs.’’ Pineda apologized to the organization, teammates, family, and fans for his ‘‘error in judgment’’ and said he ‘‘never intended to cheat the system, other players or opposing teams.’’ He said, however, he takes responsibility for ‘‘what goes in his body’’ and accepts the suspension. He added that he hopes to be an example to others about the importance of checking with experts before taking substances from an outside source.
Cubs’ Baez suffers thumb injury
Cubs shortstop Javier Baez has a hairline fracture in his left thumb, putting the rest of his season in jeopardy. An MRI in Chicago revealed the extent of Baez’s injury, suffered when he slid headfirst into second base last Sunday against the Brewers at Wrigley Field. He'll undergo further examination with a hand specialist Monday . . . The Mets activated infielder Jed Lowrie from the injured list for the first time this season. Lowrie, 35, signed a $20 million, two-year deal with New York in January but has yet to appear in a game for the Mets. Lowrie said he was healthy when he arrived for spring training, but he experienced left knee pain in camp and opened the year on the injured list. He was nearing a return in May when he injured his left hamstring, and then he strained his right calf while rehabbing those left-side injuries . . . Phillies star Bryce Harper was held out of the lineup a night after taking a pitch off his right hand. X-rays were negative and manager Gabe Kapler was confident there were no fractures in the hand after Harper was hit by a fastball from Mets starter Steven Matz. Kapler said Harper would get Saturday night off against New York as a ‘‘precautionary measure.’’
Jones, Falcons agree to three-year, $66m deal
One day before the season opener, Falcons receiver Julio Jones finally got his long-awaited contract extension, agreeing to a three-year, $66 million deal. The extension is nearly fully guaranteed when he signs. It locks in Jones through the 2023 season and removes a potentially major headache for the Falcons before Sunday’s game at Minnesota. Jones first sought a new contract more than a year ago. He reported for training camp when the Falcons enhanced his current deal and agreed to discuss a lucrative new extension before this season . . . The Cowboys released running back Alfred Morris to make room on the roster for Ezekiel Elliott for Sunday’s season opener against the Giants. The move Saturday came three days after Elliott signed a $90 million, six-year extension to end the two-time rushing champion’s holdout, which lasted the entire preseason. Two years ago, Morris was the primary replacement during Elliott’s six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.
Record crowd for Women’s Super League
Watched by a record Women’s Super League crowd of 31,213 fans, Manchester City beat Manchester United, 1-0, in the competition’s first derby between the neighbors. Caroline Weir scored in the 48th minute, a left-footed shot from outside the penalty area. The Etihad Stadium home to the City men was being used for the season opener rather than the smaller nearby stadium usually used by the women’s team, as WSL teams look to build on the popularity of the Women’s World Cup where England reached the semifinals. The previous WSL attendance record was the 5,265 who saw Arsenal win the title at Brighton last season, although Chelsea’s London derby with Tottenham on Sunday is expected to raise the bar further . . . Watford hired Quique Sánchez Flores for a second spell as manager in a swift appointment after firing Javi Gracia on Saturday. The announcements came during the international break with Watford bottom of the English Premier League with 1 point from the opening four games. Since leaving Watford in 2016, Sánchez Flores has managed Espanyol in Spain and Shanghai Shenhua in China. Gracia is the first Premier League manager to lose their job this season. The Spaniard had been in charge since January 2018 . . . In an embarrassing mix-up, the wrong national anthem was played for Albania before it faced France in a European Championship qualifier in Paris. Players looked bemused as they realized it was the wrong anthem — Andorra's, according to UEFA’s website — with camera images showing angry Albanian fans making offensive gestures in protest at the error. France coach Didier Deschamps spoke with Albania coach Edoardo Reja as referee Jesús Gil Manzano waited several minutes for the right anthem to be played at Stade de France before starting the game — which was delayed by nearly 10 minutes. Then, when the correct anthem was about to be played there was another embarrassing incident as the stadium announcer apologized to ‘‘Armenia’s fans’’ and called on fans to respect the ‘‘Armenia national anthem’’ before realizing his glaring mistake and saying Albania. France’s next opponent is Andorra at home Tuesday.
Duke clears Williamson
Duke University says an investigation has found no evidence that former basketball star Zion Williamson received improper benefits. School spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said in a statement that a ‘‘thorough and objective’’ probe led by investigators outside the athletic department found ‘‘no evidence to support any allegation’’ that would have jeopardized Williamson’s eligibility. Duke athletic director Kevin White said in April that the school would investigate after lawyer Michael Avenatti accused Nike Inc. of paying Williamson’s mother to persuade him to attend a college affiliated with the Beaverton, Ore.-based shoe company. Avenatti said in a statement Saturday that he ‘‘never heard from anyone associated with Duke’’ about the investigation and repeated his claim that Williamson was paid to attend the school. ‘‘The documents and the hard evidence do not lie,’’ he said. Williamson was taken first overall by the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA Draft after earning player of the year honors as a freshman . . . A relative of NBA star Kawhi Leonard has confirmed his sister, 35-year-old Kimesha Williams, is one of two women accused of robbing and killing an elderly woman at a Southern California casino. Authorities say Williams and an accomplice followed an 84-year-old woman into a bathroom at Pechanga Resort Casino on Aug. 31, broke her skull and stole her purse. The victim died Wednesday . . . Kyle Busch held off Justin Allgaier for the final four laps to win the NASCAR Xfinity race at Indianapolis by 0.132 seconds. The victory was the 96th of Busch’s career, the most by any driver in series history. It also was Busch’s fourth win in the Xfinity race at Indianapolis. He’s also a two-time Brickyard 400 winner . . . Alex Fitzpatrick and Conor Gough each won two matches to help Britain and Ireland take a 7-5 lead over the United States in the Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. The biennial amateur event will conclude Sunday with four more foursomes matches and 10 singles matches . . . Home favorite Bernd Ritthammer rubbed out Robert MacIntyre’s four-stroke advantage to join the Scottish rookie for a share of the lead after the third day of the European Open in Hamburg, Germany. The German, playing his 100th European Tour event, carded a 2-under-par 70 to join playing partner MacIntyre at the top on 9 under. Four-time Ryder Cup player Paul Casey was third, one shot behind the leaders, after a 3-under 69.