Pitching prospect Houser suspended
LHP James Houser, a Sarasota native who was the Rays' second-round pick in 2003, was suspended 50 games on Saturday for "testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance,'' according to MLB.
Houser was 5-4 with a 3.65 ERA in 20 starts and is considered among the Rays' second-tier of young pitching prospects. He was 12-4, 4.41 last season at advanced Class A Visalia and was named Class A SW Michigan's pitcher of the year in 2005 when going 8-8, 3.76.
Houser, 22, was mysteriously scratched from his Friday night start for Double-A Montgomery, raising speculation something was amiss. Houser was involved in a long closed-door meeting after Wednesday's game with Biscuits manager Billy Gardner Jr., pitching coach Neil Allen and field coordinator Jim Hoff.
Houser is at least the fifth player in the Rays organization to be suspended for drug policy violations, following reliever Juan Salas, who served a 50-game suspension earlier this season for similarly testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs during spring training.
Previously, outfielder Alex Sanchez was suspended 10 games on the eve of the 2005 season, and minor-league pitcher Matt Rico was was suspended 100 games last year under the minor-league program. Also, OF Josh Hamilton was suspended for the 2004-05 season for failing multiple drug tests and later admitted cocaine use, though he has resurrected his career this season with the Cincinnati Reds.