The Dragons struck out in their first-half pursuit of a spot in the Class A Midwest League baseball postseason. If they’re to earn a second-half playoff berth, it’ll most likely be without All-Star Montrell Marshall.
The first baseman on Saturday was hit with a 50-game suspension without pay following a second positive drug test. Drug testing and suspensions are conducted by Major League Baseball and adhered to by all big-league teams and their affiliates as part of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program agreed upon by the MLB Players Association.
“It’s unfortunate,” said player development director Jeff Graupe of the parent club Cincinnati Reds on Monday. “This is a major point of emphasis for us this year. It was a major topic of conversation with the entire staff and players at spring training.”
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Marshall was unavailable for comment. This news outlet reached out to the Dragons, including president Robert Murphy and manager Luis Bolivar, for comment and more information.
A 12th-round selection by the Reds in the 2014 MLB draft, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound product of South Gwinnett High School at Snellville, Georgia, was hitting .181 in 65 games and had played with the Dragons all season.
Marshall delivered the game-winning, walk-off hit in the 10th inning of last month’s Midwest League All-Star Classic at Lansing, Michigan, a 3-2 East Division defeat of the West that scored teammate Stuart Fairchild. That earned Marshall the game MVP, joining Jay Bruce (2006) as the only other Dragon to do so in the Midwest League game.
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Marshall is also a first cousin of former Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips. Marshall played the last two seasons for the Reds in rookie ball at Billings, Montana.
Graupe said the failed test was for substance abuse and not for a performance enhancer. Typically, he said, an initial failed test results in counseling and isn’t announced by MLB. The 50-game suspension for a second failed test is mandatory and announced.
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Players undergo mandatory drug testing after signing with the parent club. It has not been revealed when Marshall initially failed a test or for what drug.
Also on Saturday, Twins third baseman Sean Miller of the Class Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts also failed a second drug test and like Marshall was banned 50 games without pay.
According to MiLB.com, 52 minor-league baseball players have been suspended this year for testing positive for a drug of abuse or a banned PED. Players also are subject to suspension for refusing a test.
Marshall is the third Reds’ affiliate player to be suspended this year. Pitcher Jake Ehret of Triple-A Louisville was suspended 50 games on Feb. 16 for drug abuse and pitcher Joel Bender of Class-AA Pensacola 50 games for amphetamine/methamphetamine. Both are former Dragons, Ehret in 2015 and Bender in 2013-14.
There were 87 minor-league suspensions for similar offenses in 2017.
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Marshall could return to the Dragons toward the end of the season, although Graupe wasn’t certain. It’ll be the Reds’ decision – not the Dragons – on Marshall’s future with the organization.
“He’s away from the team for a little while and we’ll revisit that at the end of the suspension,” Graupe said. “If nothing else, it’s a wake-up call to the other players that these things can happen and reminder to keep doing things the right way.”