KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Jonathan Singleton, the top prospect in the Astros system, apologized to the organization, his teammates and his family Friday morning in his first public comments since he was suspended 50 games for a second failed drug test.
Singleton, in an arranged meeting with the media before the start of a Minor League mini-camp at Osceola County Stadium, took responsibility for his actions and said he was looking forward to getting back on the field and leaving the past behind.
"It's very important," said Singleton, who was suspended last month for failing a marijuana test. "It's time to show my true colors. I'm an honest, upfront guy, so you'll see who I am in the future."
Singleton, 21, will begin the season at extended Spring Training before reporting to Triple-A Oklahoma City when his suspension is concluded. He won't be eligible to play for the RedHawks until their May 26 game at Iowa. He's eligible to play in some Major League Spring Training games.
"I'm going to work harder than ever, pretty much, to stay in shape, and I'll be ready when the time comes," he said.
Singleton, a left-handed-hitting first baseman, hit .284 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs in 131 games last year at Double-A Corpus Christi. The club acquired him from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade in 2011.
"He's got a bright future in this organization, and we feel his mindset is exactly where it needs to be given the situation that occurred, and he's ready to move forward," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "He's got to serve the suspension. That's part of the rules, he knows that and he's owning up to it. We feel good about where he is mentally and physically, and he is in great shape."
Minor League players who fail a drug test are subject to counseling through the team's employee assistance program, as well as more frequent tests.
Singleton said he's appreciative of the support he's received from Luhnow and manager Bo Porter, who met with him earlier this week when he reported to Minor League camp.
"I'm thankful for Jeff Luhnow and the coaches and players," he said. "They definitely have my back."
Porter said Singleton deserves another chance.
"In Jonathan's situation, obviously, this was a mistake he made," he said. "He's going to pay the penalty for making the mistake, and he's going to put it behind him. The conversations he's had, he is very apologetic. He understands the magnitude of where he's at in his career and he needs to move forward and make better decisions."
Luhnow wouldn't make any promises that Singleton would reach the Majors this year, cautioning that he has never played above the Double-A level.
"We think he has a chance to have a very long big league career," he said. "When he's ready to take that step and come to Houston, we'll make that determination as the summer goes on. It'll be some time this year or next year, I guess."
When he was suspended on Jan. 9, Singleton issued a statement saying he had tested positive for marijuana. Singleton said the suspension was a wake-up call.
"I guess it was, in a way, but I'm accepting my consequences and moving forward," he said.
Singleton will be getting regular at-bats in extended Spring Training games, though that won't come close to replicating the level of competition he would have faced at Triple-A. Luhnow is confident he'll get the proper instruction to be able to make a quick adaptation to Triple-A.
"He's going to have a lot of good coaches around him," he said. "He'll face live pitching during extended Spring Training. It's a matter of 50 games down here versus 50 games in Oklahoma City. That's certainly a different level of competition, but I suspect, given everything he's done in his career, he'll go to Oklahoma City and hit the ground running and go from there."
Though he'll be busy in Kissimmee with his workouts, it will be hard to watch his teammates playing in games while he waits.
"I'll be a little anxious, you could say," he said. "Once the suspension is up, I'll be excited to play again."
Luhnow instructed reporters that Friday would be the only time Singleton would talk about the suspension. He wants him to be able to focus on the future, get his mind and body in good shape and get his career and life back on track.
"I've learned to be a better person," Singleton said. "I've definitely moved on from it and I've learned a lot from my past experience. A new opportunity is on the horizon. It's definitely time to move forward."