Lawton to begin season suspended for steroids

Updated: December 22, 2005, 10:05 PM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Matt Lawton knew he had a limited market following his suspension for using steroids.

Right Field
New York Yankees

141 13 53 67 .356 .254

The Seattle Mariners were willing to give him a chance, agreeing Thursday to a $400,000, one-year contract.

"When somebody first brings the name up, there are a lot of reservations," Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi said. "As with every player you look into everything very closely, and we're satisfied it's a one-time deal."

The commissioner's office announced Nov. 2 that Lawton tested positive for steroids, a substance identified as boldenone, which is used by veterinarians.

"The only embarrassment for me was having to tell my family how everything went down," Lawton said. "It taught me a lesson, and I'm very fortunate for the opportunity the Mariners have give me."

Lawton said he took the steroids with about eight games left in the season and thought he would not be caught.

"What's the chances?" Lawton said. "Everything happens for a reason."

Because he tested positive under the 2005 program, Lawton will miss the first 10 days of next season instead of 50 games, the penalty called for under the toughened agreement players and owners adopted under pressure from politicians.

The left-handed-hitting Lawton batted a combined .254 last season with 13 homers and 53 RBI in 141 games for Pittsburgh, the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees. He was terrible at the end of the season, going 6-for-48 (.125) for the Yankees with two homers and four RBI. New York did not include him on its playoff roster.

The 34-year-old, who received a limited no-trade clause, can earn an additional $1.25 million in performance bonuses based on plate appearances and would get the full amount if he has 600. He earned $7.5 million last season, completing a $27 million, four-year contract he agreed to with Cleveland in December 2001.

Lawton had a list of eight teams he was willing to play for and only two of the eight said they weren't interested, new agent Kevin Kohler said.

"From our point of view, the issue isn't just a player did this," Bavasi said. "It's their reaction, and what they did leading up to it and how they handled it afterward."

Lawton is a career .267 hitter with 138 homers. He was an All-Star in 2000 with Minnesota and 2004 with Cleveland. He made his major league debut with Minnesota in 1995 and remained with the Twins until the 2001 season, when he was traded to the New York Mets. He also played two seasons in Cleveland.

Bavasi expects Lawton to mostly provide bench depth, but his addition could create some competition in the outfield. Seattle is set with Ichiro Suzuki in right, and Raul Ibanez and recently signed Carl Everett sharing time in left. Jeremy Reed is expected to start in center, although his name has been mentioned in trade rumors.

"It probably does signal the idea that a young player on this club doesn't have a birthright to a spot on the club," Bavasi said.

Earlier in the week Seattle let go pitcher Ryan Franklin and outfielder Jamal Strong, also among the 12 players who tested positive for steroids this year.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press