Orioles 2006 first-round draft pick Billy Rowell told MASNsports.com tonight that he failed a drug test for marijuana and that is what led to his 50-game suspension after a second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for a drug of abuse. The suspension was announced by MLB on Monday.
Rowell said he also had a positive test for marijuana in 2009.
Rowell, who is allowed to take part in workouts in Sarasota as he is converting from an outfielder to a pitcher, said his suspension actually began in early May.
"They tested me in spring training in March," Rowell said tonight. "They took like a whole month to come out and say they got a positive test. That was pretty late, some guys had already gotten popped in spring training for different substances.
"I would like for them to retroactive it (the suspension) to April but that is not going to happen. May 5th is the date they established.
Rowell said he will not appeal the suspension.
"I admit guilt, but it is not something I do on a regular basis," he said. "This is an unfortunate incident. They test us pretty much twice or three times a month. During my six-year career I've probably gone through hundreds of tests. This is one, I just happened to not do the right thing at the right time."
I asked Rowell what he meant by not doing the right thing at the right time?
"The minor league drug program says that you are not allowed to have drugs of abuse in your system and marijuana is considered a drug of abuse," Rowell said. "Yeah (I made a mistake). I never smoked during the season. I passed multiple tests before over six years."
Rowell said he does not have a drug problem.
"No, not at all," he said. "I rarely drink and I don't smoke on a regular basis. I don't have a drug problem whatsoever."
Rowell said he has not used any drugs since the positive test result.
"Some people say that it is a crutch. It's out there, there is no getting around it. Weed is almost like grabbing a six-pack at the store," he said. "It is out there all around you, it is something I grew up with. I don't smoke during the season, I don't smoke during the offseason, but this one time they happened to catch me and I have to deal with the consequences."
Rowell said word of his suspension spread fast and his phone has been pretty busy over the last 24 hours.
"It's crazy," he said. "I'm amazed at how fast people get information. I just knew about the release last night and had people calling me last night and today saying they are concerned. People love to hear about this type of stuff.
"There are 45 different articles about Billy Rowell smoking weed. I mean, if you are worried about Billy Rowell smoking weed, you should probably get a life.
"But Major League Baseball makes it that way. It's a star on the board for them. They put a little gold star next to their name because they just busted another guy for a drug of abuse, whatever. They are cleaning up the game. They are hypocritical."
Rowell was asked about fan criticism he will get over this suspension as it follows on top of a career where he has seldom put up big numbers as a hitter and never advanced beyond being a reserve at the Double-A level.
"No, I mean this is not on top of anything," Rowell said. "Right now, I am transitioning into being a pitcher, it's a whole different position. It's going to take a while, at least a month or two, for me to be into pitching form. It's unfortunate that I could not make it as a hitter the Orioles felt, to the big leagues as a hitter. So I am choosing to try another route to be successful."
Rowell said the process of converting to a pitcher is going well and he has worked in Sarasota with Rick Peterson, Dave Schmidt and Scott McGregor. He is confident that he will get to an affiliate to pitch in games before the minor league seasons come to an end.