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01/05/12 5:00 PM EST

Nats prospect Zinicola gets 50-game ban

WASHINGTON -- The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced Thursday that Nationals right-handed pitcher Zechry Zinicola received a 50-game suspension after a second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for a "drug of abuse."

The suspension of Zinicola, a member of Triple-A Syracuse, will be effective at the start of this season. When reached by phone, Zinicola said the positive test result may have come from his use of synthetic marijuana.

"I got done playing winter ball and I decided to have a little fun," he said. "I tried out this synthetic marijuana. I tried it a few times ... and I got drug tested. It's pretty much what it is. I take responsibility for it. There is no excuse."

Zinicola was selected by Washington in the sixth round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. He was projected to be the closer of the future. In July of that year, the Nats traded reliever Gary Majewski to the Reds in hopes that Zinicola would be in the big leagues within a year. However, Zinicola has yet to play in a big league game.

This past season, Zinicola was a combined 3-0 with five saves and a 2.01 ERA for Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg.

Asked about his future with the Nationals after his suspension comes to an end, Zinicola said, "I did have some contact with the team, but as of right now, I'm kind of on standby. I'll serve my suspension. ... As Spring Training comes close, I think they'll decide where I stand within their organization."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.