ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder Josh Hamilton was suspended for the 2004 season for violating baseball's drug policy.
Hamilton, the first pick in the 1999 amateur draft, already had been given a 30-day suspension on Feb. 17. Under the new suspension announced Friday, he isn't eligible for reinstatement until spring training next year, the commissioner's office said.
Hamilton hasn't played since July 2002 because of injuries and unspecified personal issues.
He received a $3.96 million signing bonus out of high school. In 251 minor league games, he's hit .295 with 33 homers and 166 RBIs.
"All we can do is hope that Josh Hamilton will be ready to participate in our 2005 spring training," Devil Rays general manager Chuck Lamar said. "We all know the God-given baseball talent that he has. ... Hopefully, he can fulfill his dream of playing in the major leagues."
Hamilton last played July 10, 2002, for Class A Bakersfield. Last year, he took six weeks off for personal reasons during spring training and later was granted permission to leave the organization for the rest of the season to handle unspecified personal problems.
When he reported to Double-A Orlando on May 3, Hamilton said that during the leave he took in spring training he sought counseling for depression caused by a serious illness in his family.
According to the rules of baseball's drug program, a major league player must test positive at least twice for drugs of abuse before being suspended, with drugs of abuse subject to suspension defined as a group that includes cocaine, LSD, opiates, Ecstasy, the "date rape" drug GHB and PCP.
Players who fail to comply with their treatment program a second time can be suspended for 25-to-50 days. Players who fail to comply a fourth time can be suspended for at least one year. A fifth failure results in additional discipline by the commissioner.
Tests for drugs of abuse are conducted only if the joint management-union health policy advisory committee determines there is reasonable cause.
Labeled as a can't-miss prospect when he became the first high school player drafted No. 1 overall since Alex Rodriguez, Hamilton told the St. Petersburg Times in January that he was ready to resume his career.
He declined to discuss the personal problems that sidelined him in 2003, but sounded confident about his chances of bouncing back strong.
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