Beefed-up Blash ready for return


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Jabari Blash said he will get on a plane on Monday and travel to make his return to game action as a member of the Seattle Mariners organization.

But the 25-year-old St. Thomas native is not completely positive where he's headed, although he hopes its a return to the Triple-A level with the Tacoma (Wash.) Rainiers.

"That's what I was told," Blash said Friday from Peoria, Ariz., the home of Seattle's spring training complex and Arizona Fall League. "How this thing works is I won't know exactly for sure where I'm going until I see my ticket."

The Virgin Islander was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball on June 27 after testing positive for a second time for a drug of abuse. Blash told The Daily News he tested positive for Tetrahydrocannabinol, or "THC," after using marijuana.

The suspension is up this weekend and the outfielders will be eligible to play at the beginning of next week.

Blash said a high-ranking member of the Seattle front office recently told him he will likely re-join the Rainiers - one step away from the Major Leagues, where no Virgin Islander has played since Callix Crabbe played 21 games for the San Diego Padres in 2008.

Blash said he's been working out with Seattle's fall league prospects in Arizona, but has not hit against live pitching.

He has been hitting the weight room harder, though, as he has not hard to worry about the day-to-day grind of games on his body.

"I've gained back 15-20 pounds," Blash said. "It's usually almost impossible to gain weight during the season."

That should help the 6-foot-5, 22-5-pound slugger make an impression in the final month of games.

Tacoma plays Monday at Round Rock, Texas, and will play 14 games after Monday before the regular season ends. Barring a late-season barrage of wins, Tacoma will not play in the Pacific Coast League playoffs.

Blash still holds out hope for a September call up to the Mariners, as the rosters are allowed to expand in the final month of the regular season.

Blash has 17 home runs this season combined in action with Tacoma and Jackson, Tenn., the organization's Double-A affiliate.

However, his batting average is just .228 and he has struck out 81 times in 246 at-bats.

After the season, Blash said he will play winter ball for the first time in his professional career. He will be assigned to a league in either Venezuela or the Dominican Republic.

He said he will try to get home to the Virgin Islander before the winter league season begins, but it could depend on if he's called up to the Mariners or not.

During his suspension, Blash said he also tried something new on the field, taking action as a first baseman.

"It's better for my career and to have that in my back pocket," said Blash, primarily a corner outfielder throughout his career.

Blash said Chris Gwynn, a former Major Leaguer who is now director of player development for the Seattle organization paid him a visit to talk with him during the suspension.

"They wasn't happy as an organization, but I didn't hear anything negative," Blash said. "They just talked to me about getting back to where I needed to be.

"I was here for a month and a half, and I took advantage of it.

"I just tried to utilize the time as good as I could, and just kept improving. I worked out every day and kept my mind right.

"There's not much else I could do. I made a mistake, but there's no much I could do about it besides going forward, except going back to work and leaving it all behind me."

- Contact Daily News Sports Editor Matt Schoch at 714-9117 or mschoch@dailynews.vi.

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