Journeyman center fielder Joey Gathright has spent at least part of the past three seasons in independent baseball, with his only big league time coming as a pinch-runner/defensive replacement for the Red Sox in September 2011. The 31-year-old Gathright, whom the Reds released in July, will have an even longer road back to the majors following news that he tested positive for an amphetamine, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the minor league drug program.
Gathright must serve a 50-game suspension before he can suit up for another affiliated minor league club. Even if the free agent signs a minor league deal with an organization this offseason he won't be able to take the field until late May or early June.
In his youth, Gathright's top-of-the-line speed and crazy athleticism made him one of the Rays' top prospects. He reached Triple-A Durham at age 23 in 2004, then jumped to Tampa Bay late that June, a mere three years after being a 32nd-round draft pick out of La Place, La. Though Gathright hit just .244/.312/.291 in parts of three seasons with some terrible Rays teams, the Royals perceived growth potential, so in June 2006—in one of general manager Dayton Moore's first trades—Kansas City dealt lefty J.P. Howell to Tampa Bay to acquire the speedy 25-year-old.
Gathright made significantly more impact with the Royals, batting .273/.336/.311 in parts of three seasons while stealing 40 bases in 58 tries. Despite his speed, Gathright never developed into an impact defensive center fielder or basestealer, and he didn't reach base enough to offset his lack of power. The Royals non-tendered him following the 2008 season, setting Gathright free to flit from club to club. He's spent time in the Cubs, Orioles, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Reds organizations—not to mention three different indy teams—in the past four seasons, drawing a total of 33 big league plate appearances.