The Royals’ top prospect, shortstop Raul Mondesi, will begin a rehab assignment Saturday with Class A Wilmington.
The club made the announcement Friday as part of Mondesi’s return from a 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Mondesi, 20, was batting .250 with five home runs and 11 stolen bases in his first 25 games with Class Northwest Arkansas before he was suspended May 10 after testing positive for Clenbuterol, a performance-enhancing drug.
“I think that it was an accident,” Royals owner David Glass said. “When things like that happen, everybody always says, ‘Well, gosh, I don’t know how in the world that happened?’”
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Glass cited MLB’s decision in conjunction with the league’s players association to decrease Mondesi’s suspension from 80 to 50 games as evidence Mondesi made an honest mistake.
Mondesi said the failed test resulted from taking an over-the-counter medication, Subrox-C, in the Dominican Republic to treat cold symptoms.
“This is the first time they’ve ever reduced the automatic suspension for someone and they did it for him,” Glass said. “He had just a slight trace and it was the first week of spring training actually, so I think it speaks a lot for his intentions.”
If there are no rainouts for the Naturals, Mondesi will be eligible to return to Northwest Arkansas on July 4, but he is allowed to begin a rehab assignment 10 days early because he’s on the Royals’ 40-man roster.
“It’s never good to miss time, miss at-bats, miss repetition, but, at the same time, mentally it’s probably put some things in perspective for him,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said.
Minor-leaguers not protected on the parent club’s 40-man roster aren’t permitted such rehab assignments, though Mondesi will not be paid during the rehab stint.
“The bottom line is you want to get him out playing,” Moore said. “He’ll play (Saturday) in Wilmington. We’ll see where he is from there and then make a determination of what we do after the 10 days.”
“We need to get him back out there playing,” Glass said. “I’ve watched this kid play now for the last couple years. He’s really young, but he’s going to be really good. We’ve got something to look forward to with him.”