On Saturday, James Houser Jr., a left-handed pitching prospect in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' farm system, was suspended 50 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug in violation of Minor League Baseball's Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Houser, a starting pitcher for Double-A Montgomery of the Southern League, was 5-4 with a 3.65 ERA in 20 starts before the suspension. In 103.2 innings pitched, the 22-year-old – selected by the Devil Rays in the second round of the 2003 draft – allowed 51 runs, 42 of which were earned, and 88 hits. He is regarded as one of Tampa Bay's second-tier pitching prospects.
In a statement released Saturday, Mitch Lukevics, the Devil Rays director of minor league operations, said, "The Tampa Bay Devil Rays fully support baseball's drug testing program, including the measures taken against James Houser."
In 2006 for Visalia of the High Class-A California League, Houser turned in, arguably, his best campaign as a professional. He finished the season 12-4 with 137 strikeouts in 151 innings pitched, over 27 starts.
But this weekend, Houser became the second pitcher in the organization this season to be suspended for violating professional baseball's drug rules. The Sarasota native, who was scratched from his start on Friday night shortly before game time, will miss the remainder of the Biscuits' season (15 regular season games left) and the beginning of 2008. Houser, one of seven players in the organization recently selected to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, is , however, expected to report to spring training next March.
Relief pitcher Juan Salas, who recently returned to the Devil Rays, was suspended on May 7 following a positive test for a banned performance-enhancing drug. Salas is 1-1 with a 3.42 ERA and 20 strikeouts at the major league level in 2007.