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Orioles to cut ties with Billy Rowell

By Dan Connolly

The Baltimore Sun

7:00 AM EDT, October 25, 2012

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After six rocky years, which included a multi-million-dollar signing bonus, several position changes and a drug suspension, the Orioles will be cutting ties with former first-round pick Billy Rowell.

Rowell, the ninth overall selection in the 2006 draft, can become a minor league free agent as soon as the World Series ends, and the Orioles will not make him an offer to return, according to an industry source. It will put the final exclamation point on what is arguably the biggest draft bust in franchise history.

The 24-year-old Rowell, who signed for a $2.1 million bonus as the first high school position player in the 2006 draft – one spot ahead of two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum – will have a chance to latch on with another organization.

It’s not a surprise considering Rowell, a first baseman and third baseman who also attempted to become an outfielder and a pitcher, did not have one at-bat for the Orioles' organization in 2012. The previous year he hit just .227 with no homers in 41 games with Double-A Bowie, the highest level he reached in six minor-league seasons.

In May, Rowell was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for marijuana. It was the second time he had tested positive for recreational drug use. When he returned from suspension, he went to the organization’s complex in Sarasota, Fla., and began a throwing program in an attempt reinvent himself as a right-handed pitcher.

He dealt with some arm soreness, was sent home and was never summoned back to Sarasota. He was kept on short-season Aberdeen’s roster all year for procedural reasons, but never played a game for the IronBirds.

The 6-foot-5 infielder from New Jersey will finish his career in the Orioles’ organization with a .261 average and 40 homers in 550 minor-league games, most at High-A Frederick. 

The $2.1 million bonus paid to Rowell was the largest the Orioles had ever given a position player until catcher Matt Wieters received $6 million the following year.