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Tampa Bay Rays: Prospect Nick Ciuffo Suspended by MLB

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ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 07: A Tampa Bay Rays glove and cap before the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 07, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 07: A Tampa Bay Rays glove and cap before the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 07, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Tampa Bay Rays prospect, catcher Nick Ciuffo was suspended by the Commissioner’s Office for 50-games after testing positive for a second time for a “drug of abuse.”

The catching depth of Tampa Bay Rays took a major hit, (no pun intended) on Saturday when prospect Nick Ciuffo was suspended for testing positive a second time for a “drug of abuse.” There were no specifics as to the type of drug that he tested positive.

According to Minor League Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, a “drug of abuse” includes an array of drugs from natural to synthetic including marijuana, opiates etc.

"“We are disappointed by Nick’s actions, and we expect more from our players,” Rays general manager Erik Neander said. “We hope that Nick will take this opportunity to reassess his priorities both during Spring Training and once the suspension takes effect.”"

Drafted by the Rays with the 21st overall selection in the 2013 Draft, Ciuffo is currently ranked as the Rays 27th prospect according to MLBPipeline and was invited to spring training though he is on the Durham Bulls (Triple-A) roster.

For the past two seasons, Ciuffo has been the Rays Minor League Defensive Player of the Year. In winning the award in 2017, Ciuffo nailed 23 of 60 (38.3 percent) potential base stealers with Double-A Montgomery.

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Known more his defense, Ciuffo however enjoyed his most productive offensive season in 2017 as he batted .245/.319/.385 with seven home runs, 42 RBIs and 29 doubles (all career highs) in 102 games with Montgomery.

Prior to the Winter Meetings this past December, the Rays took a risk by not protecting Ciuffo for the Rule 5 Draft and were fortunate that no team selected him. Catching depth is thin throughout the organization, and Ciuffo at the time could have been the logical replacement if Wilson Ramos or Jesus Sucre sustained an injury.

Ciuffo issued this statement via Twitter on Saturday:

Meanwhile, four non-roster catcher invites on minor league contracts in Johnny Monell, Adam Moore, Brett Sullivan and Xorge Carrillo will join Ramos and Sucre on Wednesday when camp opens for pitchers and catchers.

Monell and Moore both have limited major league experience. Monell was a free agent signing this offseason by the Rays and has played for the Giants (2013), and with the New York Mets (2015) appearing in 27 games. Last season he played in Korea, appearing in just 28 games slashing .165/.395/.282.

Moore was also a free agent signing this offseason, and has appeared in 30 combined games over the past eight seasons playing for Seattle, Kansas City, San Diego and the last two seasons with Cleveland.  Last year with Triple-A Columbus (Cleveland) Moore slashed .238/.313/.369 with eight home runs, 33 RBI in 76 games.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Re-Sign Romo, add McGowan on a Minor League Deal

The suspension, which is without pay begins at the start of the minor league season, so the earliest the Ciuffo could return to action is June.

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