by Mike Berardino
March 9, 2006
JUPITER, Fla.–Troubled Marlins pitching prodigy Jeff Allison has fallen off the fast track again.
Allison, the talented righthander who overcame a heroin overdose and a dependency on OxyContin to return to the mound last season, left the team’s minor league complex during spring training. He has not been released or placed on the restricted list, but it’s unclear when or if he will return to the organization.
“I don’t know what his (official) status is, but no, he’s not with us,” Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said. “He’s suspended, I believe.”
Loria, who visited Allison at a Massachusetts rehabilitation center before the 2004 season, said he wasn’t sure if the pitcher had returned to rehab. It’s unclear if Allison’s latest departure was related to another failed drug test.
“I don’t know where he’s going or what he’s doing,” Loria said. “We’re in the process of dealing with that now.”
A first-round draft pick in 2003, Allison went 5-4, 4.18 last year in 17 starts for low Class A Greensboro. He was slated to begin this year at high Class A Jupiter in the Florida State League.
Allison, 21, was Baseball America’s High School Player of the Year in 2003 after a standout career in Peabody, Mass., outside Boston. Rail thin, brash and armed with a mid-90s fastball and vicious curveball, he has been compared to former Marlins star Josh Beckett.
Allison entered a drug treatment center the winter after his first pro season after abusing OxyContin, a prescription painkiller. Placed on the Marlins’ restricted list the following spring, Allison suffered a heroin overdose in Lynn, Mass., in July 2004.
“I feel sad for the kid, but he’s going to have to get himself together,” Loria said. “I hope he does because he’s got a great talent and a great ability. He has a gift, and it would be a shame to waste that gift.”
Allison signed for $1.85 million but has collected less than half that amount after his contract was restructured and additional drug tests were scheduled.
“I liked him very much when I met him and spent some time with him,” Loria said. “He has to go through the system like everybody else. Hopefully he’ll put his life together. We’re praying for him.”
Mike Berardino is the national baseball writer for the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where this story originally appeared.