Rays Use Technicality To Get Around PED Suspension For Houser

Lefthander James Houser, the No. 18 prospect in the Rays’ system, served 25 games of a 50-game suspension last year after testing positive for amphetamines.

It now appears that Houser, who pitched at Double-A Montgomery in 2007, won’t have to serve the rest of his suspension.

Houser had tested positive for amphetamines, a violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The Rays placed Houser on the 40-man roster in November, making him technically a major leaguer and thus subject to Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement.

"He was placed on the 40-man roster, and as a member of the 40-man roster, he’s no longer subject to the minor league rules," Rays spokesman Rick Vaughn said.

The major league and minor league drug testing programs are two separate programs. Major leaguers are not suspended for a first positive test for amphetamines and their names are not publicly released, whereas minor leaguers who test positive for amphetamines receive a 50-game suspension. MLB Vice President of Public Relations Operations Patrick Courtney confirmed that Houser is no longer suspended.

"If he were a major leaguer, he wouldn’t have been suspended," Courtney said. "So when he’s put on the 40-man, he gets the lesser of the two penalties."

Even if the Rays option Houser back to the minor leagues, he still will not have to serve his suspension because is still officially a major leaguer and thus subject to the CBA. With three options remaining on his contract, the only way Houser would have to serve his suspension is if the organization removed him from the 40-man roster, making him a minor leaguer again. To do that, though, Tampa Bay would have to pass him through waivers first.

Had Houser been suspended for anabolic steroids, for example, he would have still had to serve a suspension because he would be subject to the major league drug testing policy, which requires a 50-game suspension for a first positive test.

Houser, 23, had a 3.65 ERA with 90 strikeouts and 39 walks in 103 2/3 innings last year for the Biscuits. The 2003 second-round pick is currently at his first big league camp.