Jeffress Slapped With 100-Game Suspension

Positive test has him one violation away from lifetime ban

MILWAUKEE—Righthander Jeremy Jeffress, rated as the top pitching prospect in the  Brewers' farm system, has been suspended for 100 games for testing positive for a third time for a "drug of abuse."

The penalty leaves Jeffress, 21, one positive test away from a lifetime ban under the Minor League Drug Treatment and Prevention program.

MLB's press release Monday said Jeffress was suspended for a "drug of abuse." Jeffress himself has said in the past he was suspended for marijuana use. Players are not suspended on their first positive test for a drug of abuse. The constant use has the Brewers very concerned about Jeffress' future, assistant general manager Gord Ash said.

"Given he is a two- or three-time positive tester, it gives you a lot of concern," said Ash. "Our job is to supply as much support as he can. It's tough to be shocked anymore about anything but it's certainly surprising."

Specific substances are not revealed under the minor league drug program but Jeffress admitted in the past to testing positive for marijuana near the end of the 2007 season, while pitching for Class A West Virginia. He received a 50-game suspension at the time, which carried over to the 2008 season.

That fall, Jeffress tested positive for marijuana again in a club-administered test and was disciplined by the Brewers. Under baseball's minor league drug program, players receive 50-game suspensions for the second violation, 100 games for the third and a lifetime ban for the fourth for "drugs of abuse."

With only 75 games remaining in Brevard County's 140-game season, the suspension will carry over into 2010.

Reached Friday evening by telephone, Jeffress' agent, Josh Kusnick, reluctantly confirmed the positive test.

"I'm sure it's already getting around the ballpark in Brevard County," said Kusnick, referring to the high Class A affiliate where Jeffress was pitching.

"All I'll say is it was not a performance-enhancing drug. We all know the issue Jeremy has had in the past. He obviously has a very sensitive issue he has to overcome.

"This is all about Jeremy now. This is a problem that goes beyond his career. It's more important to get the person fixed. He wants to have a healthy and productive life, much less baseball."

Jeffress, a first-round draft pick in 2006, began the season at Double-A Huntsville but was sent down after eight starts because of control problems. He went 1-3, 7.57 with 33 walks and 34 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings, before getting demoted to Brevard County.

In six games (five starts) with Brevard, Jeffress was 2-1, 2.18, with 16 hits and 22 walks allowed in 33 innings, and 36 strikeouts.

The Brewers hoped to get Jeffress back to the Double-A level at least this year with the possibility of advancing to the majors at some point in 2010. Now, his future in the organization has been placed in jeopardy.

In an interview during spring training 2008, Jeffress admitted he was placed in a Phoenix-area rehabilitation program at the Brewers' urging after his 50-game suspension.

"I'm trying to be honest with myself," Jeffress said in that interview. "I'm listening to what my dad told me. He said to put it behind me, learn from my mistakes and stay strong. That's what I'm going to do.

"Now, I'm concentrating on baseball, getting my life straight and keeping my nose clean."   

Obviously, Jeffress was unable to stay clean. Players who have tested positive in the past are subjected to more frequent testing, so he had to know he stood a good chance of being caught if he smoked marijuana again.

Taken with the 16th pick in the first round of the 2006 draft, Jeffress received a $1.55 million signing bonus. His fastball has been clocked as high as 100 mph, and Baseball America ranked him as the No. 4 prospect in the Brewers' farm system this year and the top pitcher.

Kusnick indicated Jeffress would seek treatment for his problem during his suspension. "Jeremy is destroyed by this," he said. "He knows what he did is wrong and is incredibly remorseful. We're hoping people support him during this difficult time."