Brewers prospect Jeffress suspended
Pitcher to miss 100 games for third violation of drug policy
MILWAUKEE -- Major League Baseball announced Brewers pitching prospect Jeremy Jeffress' 100-game suspension on Monday for a "drug of abuse," the right-hander's third violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.Jeffress, 21, was Milwaukee's first-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft and had been pitching for Class A Brevard County. His agent, Josh Kusnick, confirmed last week that his client was facing a 100-game ban and said Jeffress would voluntarily check himself into a drug rehabilitation program.
Brewers officials did not speak publicly about Jeffress until MLB made the suspension official on Monday afternoon."We are obviously disappointed because Jeremy has such great Major League potential, and this is a setback in his career," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said in a statement. "We support Major League Baseball's drug programs and as an organization we will continue to assist Jeremy and help him with his problem as long as he wants to help himself." Unlike the Major League program, which strictly adheres to performance-enhancing drugs and amphetamines, Minor League players also can be suspended for using drugs like marijuana, cocaine and others. Last year, Jeffress admitted he had a problem with marijuana. The first failed test for a drug of abuse is considered a "clinical violation" and does not come with a suspension or an MLB announcement. The second test carries a 50-game suspension, the third positive nets a 100-game suspension and a fourth test carries a lifetime suspension. Compare that to penalties for performance-enhancers: A 50-game suspension for a first positive test, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third. No player has been banned for life under the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, according to a Major League Baseball spokesperson. Only one other Minor League player -- former Reds farmhand Justin Mallet -- has been suspended 100 games for a drug of abuse. Mallett, 27, was a free agent when his suspension was announced earlier this month. "Given that [Jeffress] has been a two- or three-time positive tester, it gives you a lot of concern," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "All we can do is hope that he's motivated to comply with the rules of baseball, and offer as much support as we can."
Jeffress' first failed test came sometime between June 2006, when he signed a professional contract that came with a $1.55 million signing bonus, and August '07, when he was suspended 50 games by MLB for a second failed test.Jeffress went through a rehabilitation program that offseason, and Brewers officials hoped his problems with drugs were behind him. They assigned him to Double-A Huntsville to start the season, then demoted him to Brevard County after Jeffress started the year 1-3 with a 7.57 ERA in eight starts. Now comes another positive drug test. Brevard County has only 66 games remaining this season, so Jeffress will also miss 34 games in 2010. The Brewers will have to add him to the 40-man roster following the 2010 season or expose him to the Rule 5 Draft. "Jeremy has been given ample support and education, so we're disappointed from the point of view that he's going to miss this much significant time on his development calendar," Ash said. "At the same time, he appears remorseful and wants to do the right thing." Tim Hewes, director of the Brewers' employee assistance program, will meet with Jeffress and his parents on Tuesday to enroll in a rehabilitation program. The Brewers plan to help Jeffress with the process. "Clearly he has made a mistake, and a significant mistake," Ash said. "But from a human side of this, forgetting about athletics or playing ability, it is incumbent upon us as his extended family to make sure he has all of the necessary tools to live a productive life. That's what we're trying to do. "When you've been around baseball as long as some of us have, it's tough to be 'shocked' anymore. But I would say that it is certainly surprising. When you think this through logically in terms of what he is gambling with, it's easy to [feel] surprised or shocked or whatever adjective you want to use. But at the same time, when you're his age, you don't think about that. You don't put it in that kind of scope. That's part of what will be addressed with him. "I'm not an expert in this area, but I guess it also speaks to how, when you get into these substances, how much it can control your life and your decision-making." Before news of his 100-game suspension broke last week, Jeffress was considered Milwaukee's top pitching prospect, and his latest setback highlights the organization's troubles advancing pitchers from the First-Year Player Draft to the Major Leagues. Yovani Gallardo, a second-round selection in 2004, is in the big leagues, but he is a rare success story. With Gallardo sidelined, many consider the Brewers' top pitching prospect to be Zach Braddock, a left-hander who has endured physical and emotional setbacks since the club made him its 18th-round pick in the 2005 Draft. Braddock was recently promoted from Brevard County to Huntsville.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.