M's Lawton begins 10-day steroid suspension

SEATTLE -- Matt Lawton sat quietly beside his locker, in a virtually empty clubhouse, knowing his Opening Day was more than a week away.

While the rest of the Seattle Mariners were taking the field Monday, Lawton made his way out of the clubhouse to begin his 10-day suspension for a positive steroids test last September.

Lawton can be in the clubhouse until game time, when league rules state he must leave. Lawton planned to watch the opener against the Los Angeles Angels from one of the team's suites.

He did put on his No. 15 uniform and take the field during pregame ceremonies.

"I'll just be a fan today, watch the game and enjoy Opening Day," Lawton said.

Seattle was one of the few teams to give Lawton a chance after his positive steroids test. Lawton signed a one-year contract worth $400,000.

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

Lawton has never shied away from his suspension, saying he was most embarrassed having to tell his family about intentionally taking boldenone, which is used by veterinarians.

Seattle's management signed Lawton after getting full assurance from Lawton that it was an isolated incident.

"I still take full responsibility for my actions," Lawton said.

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.

During spring training, Lawton played in 16 games and hit .367 with eight doubles and eight RBI in 49 at-bats. Lawton said he's approaching these first 10 days as an extended spring training, working on his conditioning.

"Anytime you can get days off during the season you take it," Lawton said. "But you never want to have back-to-back days like this."