Indians minor league righthander Dillon Howard rapidly accelerated his downward momentum with a 50-game suspension he earned for testing positive for an amphetamine, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the minor league drug program.
The 2011 second-round pick out of high school in Searcy, Ark., spent the first half of this season in extended spring training and had not yet made an appearance. Howard, who turns 22 next week, ran up a 7.90 ERA over 41 innings in the in the Rookie-level Arizona League last season, a performance mitigated somewhat by elbow soreness, but then that explanation was mitigated by the fact that he showed up to spring training out of shape.
The Indians struck gold with their first pick in the 2011 draft, taking Francisco Lindor, perhaps the best all-around shortstop prospect in the game. In the second round, Cleveland selected Howard, who signed for $1.85 million, and has plummeted in standing from the system’s No. 2 prospect entering the 2012 season to the No. 25 prospect entering this year.
In other suspension news:
Major League Baseball on Tuesday, June 25, announced a 50-game suspension for free agent lefthander Mike O’Connor, who tested positive for metabolites of Trenbolone. The 32-year-old has pitched for six organizations and in one independent league in a 12-year pro career that began as a seventh-round pick of the Montreal Expos in 2002.
The Twins released O’Connor on May 18 after signing him as a minor league free agent last November. In addition to the Expos/Nationals and Twins, he has pitched for the Padres, Royals, Mets and Yankees, making 35 appearances in the big leagues, most recently with the 2011 Mets.