The disappointing career of former first-rounder Billy Rowell added another head-shaking twist Monday when Major League Baseball announced that Rowell had become the organization's third member to be suspended since March for violating the minor league drug testing and prevention program.
According to a Major League Baseball news release, the 23-year-old Rowell tested positive for a "drug of abuse," and has been suspended 50 games for his second offense.
Major League Baseball did not reveal the specific drug that was found in Rowell's system, but it is not considered a performance-enhancer. The first offense in the minor leagues requires treatment, but no suspension, and is not made public.
Rowell, who has been in Sarasota, Fla., participating in a throwing program in an attempt to convert to pitching, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Rowell is the third Orioles' minor leaguer to be suspended this year for a drug of abuse. The other two were catchers Brian Ward, a former undrafted free agent, and Michael Ohlman, an 11th-rounder in 2009.
Rowell, however, is a much higher-profile player. He was taken with the ninth pick overall out of a New Jersey high school in 2006 and given a $2.1 million bonus. He was selected one spot ahead of multiple National League Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum in that draft.
A corner infielder who also tried the outfield, Rowell did not make it as high as Double-A Bowie until his sixth season last year, when he hit .244 with no homers and 11 RBIs in 41 games. He was a career .261 hitter in 1,966 career minor-league at-bats
The 6-foot-4 lefty hitter who throws right-handed agreed to try to become a pitcher this spring. He will not be able to participate in extended spring games because of the suspension.
Orioles director of player development John Stockstill declined comment. Executive vice president Dan Duquette did not return a phone call.
During his Monday afternoon press conference, Orioles manager Buck Showalter was asked about the news, and the trio of Orioles' minor league players suspended this year.
"I'm sure any time those things happen — I am not going to get into comparing it to society — if there is one [player], it's a concern. But unfortunately it's part of the world we live in and we try to keep it from happening," Showalter said. "I don't really care how it compares to other organizations or society in general, numbers, ratio — I don't. I just don't want it happening with the Orioles. But I have children and I understand the challenges that are out there. I'm not condoning anything. We'll see."
Minor leaguers are tested for drugs of abuse, but players on the 40-man roster are not subject to those tests unless there is reasonable cause. A major league player cannot be suspended for marijuana use, for instance, but would be subject to a fine if he fails a reasonable cause test.
Reimold could get more epidural shots
Left fielder Nolan Reimold (bulging disk in neck) has not gotten "markedly" better after receiving an epidural shot Friday, according to Showalter.
He was scheduled to be examined Monday, and Showalter said it was possible that another epidural shot would be administered. Usually, the manager said, they are given in a series of three, but the club was hopeful Reimold may respond well to the first.
There's "the potential to do another one. Initially it's set up as a series of three. But I'm not sure about when the next one could take place if they feel like they may want to wait another day or two to see if this might resolve itself," Showalter said. "I don't know. I just know that it didn't seem to be a whole lot of the marked improvement we had hoped to have" Monday.
There is no timetable on Reimold's return. Since it usually takes three to five days to gauge the effect of the shots, he likely is looking at two more weeks before a return if he goes through the full procedure.
In his first six starts this season, Taiwanese lefty Wei-Yin Chen has faced six different opponents. Today, he is scheduled to pitch against the New York Yankees, who scored four runs (two earned) against him in his big-league debut on April 10.
Chen said his mindset remains the same now that he's going against a familiar opponent.