As Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets,Rays starting pitching prospect Alex Colome has been suspended 50 games for testing positive for Boldenone, an anabolic steroid commonly used by veterinarians. Colome becomes the 14th Rays prospect to be suspended since the start of the 2012 season, the highest count in baseball. Here is the Rays’ statement on the matter.
“We were disappointed to learn of Alex Colome’s violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. We fully support Major League Baseball’s policy and its efforts to eliminate performance-enhancing substances from our game. Per the protocol outlined in the Joint Drug Program, the organization will not comment further on this matter.”
In a time when the Rays’ pitching depth is already stretched thin thanks to Jeremy Hellickson‘s injury, this was not the news they were looking for. Colome was the only pitcher slated in the Triple-A rotation that had any previous success at that level. In the event of an additional injury to a major league starter, Colome would have gotten the call to fill in. Now the Rays will have to rely on someone like Nate Karns, Enny Romero, or Matt Andriese to fill in the big league rotation in the event of an injury, but the trio has just 16 games above Double-A between them. When Hellickson is ready to return, the Rays’ depth will be a bit more in order, but if another injury were to occur before then, the Rays would be in a tough situation.
Not only does this hurt the Rays’ depth, but it also will hurt Colome’s development. He only threw 91.2 innings in 2012 and followed that with just 86.1 innings last season after injuries limited him both years. This season he needed to prove that he could build up enough arm strength to be ready to be in the big league rotation in 2015. But by being suspended for nearly a third of the year, he is not going to be able to throw the innings that he needs even if he stays completely healthy. It might take him pitching in the minors for the 2015 season for him to finally build up enough innings to start in the big leagues, but by then, it could be too late. There has already been talk that he should be moved to the bullpen, and this suspension makes it even more likely. Numbers-wise, Colome deserves to start, but with another season in which he fails to reach 100 inning plateau, moving him to the bullpen might be the best choice for his development.
The Alex Colome suspension is just one more in a continued worrisome string of drug suspensions to Rays’ farmhands over the past couple of years. But this one hurts the most, as Colome was expected to be the first in line to be called up in the event of another injury to the rotation. The Rays are having their depth tested once again, and they have to hope that it can hold up as well as it did in the past.