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Mariners' Powell appreciative of fresh start

Prospect was handed 80-game suspension last year for positive PED test
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Boog Powell loves the game. He's the baseball equivalent of a gym rat -- the kid always showing up early, hanging around the diamond, getting dirty, taking swings in the cage. But that all changed for a time midway through last season, when the 24-year-old Mariners outfielder found out he'd been suspended for 80 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

Powell, who was playing for Triple-A Tacoma at the time, says he's still trying to clear his name. He's insisted from the start that he didn't know how he could have tested positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, an anabolic steroid.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Boog Powell loves the game. He's the baseball equivalent of a gym rat -- the kid always showing up early, hanging around the diamond, getting dirty, taking swings in the cage. But that all changed for a time midway through last season, when the 24-year-old Mariners outfielder found out he'd been suspended for 80 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

Powell, who was playing for Triple-A Tacoma at the time, says he's still trying to clear his name. He's insisted from the start that he didn't know how he could have tested positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, an anabolic steroid.

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And though Powell still has five games to sit out at the start of the coming season, he is doing his best to push the dark cloud aside and get back to being one of Seattle's most-promising prospects, currently ranked No. 25 by MLBPipeline.com.

It certainly helps that Powell has gotten off to a scorching start in Cactus League play, batting .615 (8-for-13) with a triple, two RBIs and four runs scored in eight games. A fresh start has helped begin to ease some of the sting of last year's crushing news.

Video: MIL@SEA: Powell extends lead with RBI single

"There were days when I would wake up and I didn't even want to come to the field," Powell said. "I didn't want to be around baseball. I couldn't watch baseball. It deeply affected me. It brought out the emotional side. But I had to move forward and kept trying to look to this year."

Powell has come a long way since the day he went into the office of Rainiers manager Pat Listach and broke into tears after learning a suspension was looming. He credits Listach for helping him keep things together, and Powell later played winter ball in the Dominican Republic for Mariners third-base coach Manny Acta in order to make up for lost time after sitting out Tacoma's final 75 games.

If there is a positive for Powell, it's the resolve to make the most of every moment and opportunity he has now to keep playing the game.

"I'm coming in here and just trying to compete every day," he said. "Last year, everything got taken away from me in a blink of an eye, so I just look at it like each day could be your last. You could get injured or something could happen to where you can't play baseball. I'm just going to go out there and play with a lot of emotion and be the best I can."

Powell has made an impression on manager Scott Servais with the way he's played this spring. Powell dropped a perfect drag bunt to reach base and drive in a run in a game against the Indians last week. He roped a triple into the gap against the Athletics on Sunday. Limited opportunities have yielded maximum results.

"I like what I see offensively," Servais said. "He's really good in the batter's box. He can put the bat on the ball, there is power there, he's driving the ball more. He's a little behind the eight ball on this one. He's got a few games to serve on the suspension. We've got other guys with similar skill sets now. But he's stood out. The at-bats have been very, very good."

Once his suspension ends in early April, Powell will likely be sent to Tacoma. And he'll bring with him both the desire for a fresh start and the love for the game he rediscovered while playing several months in the Dominican last winter.

"They play with more emotion than I've ever seen," Powell said. "It was an eye-opener out there -- the way they play, the way everybody in their culture just loves baseball. It was incredible. I loved it. I definitely want to go back."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Seattle Mariners, Boog Powell