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Rays prospect Ciuffo addresses suspension

Catcher 'taking right steps' to deal with personal issues
MLB.com @wwchastain

ST. PETERSBURG -- Nick Ciuffo will serve a 50-game suspension without pay for testing positive for marijuana. On Tuesday, the Rays catching prospect spoke to the media about his plight, along with his hopes to turn the negative into a positive.

"There's obviously no excuse for what I did," Ciuffo said. "But what's done is done, I can't change the past, and I'm looking toward the future from here on out. I really truly think that when I look back at this, this is going to be something that changes my life, and my career, in a good way.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Nick Ciuffo will serve a 50-game suspension without pay for testing positive for marijuana. On Tuesday, the Rays catching prospect spoke to the media about his plight, along with his hopes to turn the negative into a positive.

"There's obviously no excuse for what I did," Ciuffo said. "But what's done is done, I can't change the past, and I'm looking toward the future from here on out. I really truly think that when I look back at this, this is going to be something that changes my life, and my career, in a good way.

"I'm going to handle issues like I've never handled them before. Honestly, if this wouldn't have happened, I don't think I ever would have handled those issues. And those are personal issues that I won't comment on, but I'm handling those, and I think I'm taking the right steps to make sure this never happens again."

Ciuffo was suspended by the Commissioner's office following his second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

"I really want to thank the Rays and my teammates, because the support I've gotten from the Rays, top to bottom, has been unbelievable," Ciuffo said. "You know, they're here for me. They've said, 'Anything you need that they can help you with, we're here to help you.'

"Teammates, guys I don't even really know, who have been through the same thing, or have been through trials and tribulations in their lives, they've come up to me with nothing but support, given me their phone numbers and said, 'Hey, if you ever need to talk, or just hang out and chat, just let me know.' That was really cool to have support, because honestly when [the news] came out, I thought there was going to be a lot of bashing by people, telling me I'm dumb, this and that. That I'm an idiot. But for the most part, it's been really supportive from everybody, top to bottom."

Ciuffo's suspension is a setback for him, personally, and a setback to the Rays' catching depth.

The Rays drafted Ciuffo, 22, in the first round of the 2013 Draft (21st overall). In five Minor League seasons, he has hit .248 with 12 homers and 134 RBIs while playing solid defense. He played for Double-A Montgomery last season, for which he hit .245 with seven home runs and 42 RBIs.

The Rays took a calculated gamble by not protecting Ciuffo at the Winter Meetings during the Rule 5 Draft, meaning any team in baseball could have selected him, but that team would have had to keep him on their active Major League roster for the length of the 2018 season or offer him back to the Rays. Tampa Bay was pleased when no team selected Ciuffo, as it view him as a Major League prospect.

Ciuffo is in Major League camp for Spring Training. He'll begin his suspension while playing at extended spring camp. Afterward, he's slated to be on the roster for Triple-A Durham.

"Obviously this is an awful situation to be in, but I put myself in this situation, so from here on out I'm just trying to find the silver linings in everything," Ciuffo said. "If this helps me take care of the issues that I have personally, then it won't be the worst thing ever.

"When I go down to extended [spring], if I can just -- one guy, one teammate, one friend, if I can get him or her, whoever it is, to talk to somebody before doing what I did, or find the help they need with stress or whatever pressures, or whatever, if I can affect just one person, then this won't be a wash."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays