BALTIMORE - Opening day will have a different meaning this year for Baltimore Orioles reliever Troy Patton.
When the Orioles launch the 2014 season at Camden Yards on March 31 against the defending champion Boston Red Sox, Patton will start serving the 25-game suspension he received in December for testing positive for a banned amphetamine.
Patton took Adderall, a drug commonly used to combat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, late in the 2013 season and then was given a random drug test. Because Patton did not have a therapeutic use exemption for Adderall and it was his second positive test for a banned stimulant, Baltimore's left-handed relief specialist was suspended and will lose $174,180 of his $1,275,000 salary.
"It was a stupid mistake, especially having failed one prior test," Patton said last weekend. "I made the mistake and now I'm just ready to deal with it."
Patton cringes when he thinks about the Orioles openin g the season without him.
"It was real frustrating because my goal every year is to run down that orange carpet," he said. "That would mean I made it again, another year with the team. Missing those first few games against Boston at home is going to hurt real bad."
The pain began when he learned of his suspension, which followed a season in which the 28-year-old went 2-0 with a 3.70 ERA in 56 games.
Although clearly repentant, Patton acknowledged he "let down" his teammates in their bid to get off to a good start in the highly competitive AL East. But he also wants Baltimore fans to know that Adderall is not a performance-enhancing drug.
"I don't want fans to associate the Adderall with steroids or things of that nature because it's a completely different thing," he said. "People take Adderall every day for normal usage. Four times the normal percentage of people in baseball take it than in the real world. It's not something that I was doing to try to get bigger, faster, stronger. It's something I was trying to do just to have some energy and alertness."
Patton can't return until April 29 at the earliest. He won't see much action during spring training, either.
"Why would I give him innings when he can't pitch until April something when I can use that to evaluate somebody else?" Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I'm not going to have him pitch in an intrasquad game and then there are two months before he pitches. He may not pitch a whole lot before we break camp."
Patton insists he needs treatment for ADHD, but he can't get a prescription for Adderall because of his misstep with the drug.
"I still think I'm ADD and I would like to take Adderall but it's going to more difficult now to go through that process," he said. "I know I can play without it. I have for years. It's not something that I desperately need."
And so, Patton guarantees he won't be using it anytime soon.
"I'm not go ing to keep Adderall within a mile of me," he said. "It's much more of a penalty next time - 80 games. I can't afford to miss half a season. It's not even going to be a question. It's no longer in my repertoire at all. It's over with."