Emeralds stand behind suspended Tate

Donavan Tate

Eugene, OR: Donavan Tate, the San Diego Padres No. 3 overall pick in 2009, was suspended Tuesday for violating Major League Baseball's drug prevention and treatment program. This is the second time Tate has tested positive for a drug of abuse.

Donavan Tate, 20, will immediately begin serving a 50-game suspension. The suspension will be reduced to 25 games because he has participated in substance abuse counseling.

Players who test positive for a drug of abuse -- marijuana, cocaine, opiates, etc. -- are typically not suspended until a second positive test under the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

"Obviously its disappointing and we are going to continue to try to do everything we can to support him," Jason McLeod, the Padres Assistant General Manager overseeing Player Development and Scouting said.

It has been reported that Tate was suspended for marijuana use, but the Padres have not confirmed what the drug was—only that it was a drug of abuse.

Tate, whose $6.25 million signing bonus was the highest ever given to a Padres draft choice, has been playing for the Class A, short-season Eugene Emeralds. Since signing with the Padres, Tate has struggled just to get on the field.

The ink on his contract didn't even have time to dry, as just two days after signing with the team, Tate began developing a sports hernia, which eventually led to surgery. Later that same year, Tate suffered a broken jaw while riding an ATV near his home in Cartersville, Ga.

The 2010 season didn't bring any better luck.

After sustaining a strained shoulder while diving for a ball, Tate would return to play 25 games in the Arizona League. His 2011 season was halted in mid-April while playing at low Class A Fort Wayne. Tate hyper extended his knee and bruised a bone during a collision with fellow outfielder Everett Williams.

Tate returned for the opening of the Emeralds 2011 season, and after starting the year 0-for-14, Tate appeared to have begun his baseball ascent. He has gone 11-for-35 since that start, including a 5-for-6 game with two doubles, a triple and two stolen bases against the Everett Aquasox on June 26.

"The game on Sunday where he went 5-6 with a pair of stolen bases is just a glimpse of the talent that he has," McLeod said.

Between Fort Wayne and Eugene, Tate is hitting .294/.368/.471 overall.

"Donavan (Tate's) a great kid," Emeralds first-year manager Pat Murphy said. "He's a great teammate. He's been nothing but a tremendous teammate. He's worked tremendously hard. We're just going to support him.

"People are held accountable and need to be held accountable for things. I'm not the judge and jury. Our big thing is to support our player in the best way possible."

The suspension comes just as the Emeralds have started the year in stellar fashion. As of June 28, the Ems are 9-2 and currently riding a six-game winning streak.

"It's adversity," Murphy said. "Adversity hits and it gives somebody else an opportunity. Donavan's got a great opportunity right now to handle this in the right way. And somebody else has a great opportunity to take his place and handle that in the right way. So it's all a great opportunity."

Shortstop Jace Peterson says that Tate has the maturity to respond well to the suspension.

"Tate's a great player, and unfortunately he's going to be out for a few games," Peterson said. "But we got a good team here, and we're going to pick him up and he'd do the same for us. You never want to lose a player like him, at any time, but he's a strong kid, and he'll be back soon."

On the field, the Emeralds will need to find ways to win without one of their best weapons. Teammates of Tate feel that constant lineup changes throughout the early part of the year have equipped them to best handle this situation.

"We've put a lot of lineups out there, as many lineups as we really could, and we've been successful the whole season, so far," catcher Matt Colantonio said. "Obviously we're going to miss him for a little bit, but I think we'll be fine."

Tate was not available for comment.

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