ST. LOUIS -- Andrew Lambo had to travel only 240 miles from Indianapolis to hook up here with the Pirates. But the road he traveled to the Major Leagues was far longer, with many twists and turns.
Since entering pro ball as a fourth-round 2007 pick of the Dodgers, Lambo had endured a drug suspension, injuries and 669 Minor League games before stepping into a big league clubhouse for the first time on Tuesday.
Lambo's last lap was more sudden than even he expected: He got to make his big league debut in Tuesday night's game against the Cardinals after Jose Tabata, in the original lineup in right field, had to be scratched with flu-like symptoms.
So Lambo got an immediate shot at fulfilling his goal of "being a part of what's going on here, and contributing any way I can." He went 0-for-3 in the Pirates' 4-3, 14-inning loss to the Cardinals.
Not too long ago, he couldn't be sure that shot would ever come.
"[Never getting here] definitely crosses your mind," the 25-year-old outfielder admitted. "You just got to go out and continue working hard. I wasn't doing things the right way, there were some things I needed to correct, in the way I went about this game."
The Pirates gave Lambo the one vacant spot on their 40-man roster, and made room for him on the 25-man active roster by optioning -- for the fifth time this season -- Alex Presley to Indianapolis.
Three months before his trade to the Pirates at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in 2010, Lambo drew a 50-game suspension from MLB for a second positive test for a banned drug. Because of the wording of that suspension, it wasn't a PED but a recreational drug. An arrest for marijuana possession as a California high school sophomore was part of his record.
Now, after cracking 31 homers between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, he is ready to start compiling a different kind of record.
"It was a time for reflection," he said of those days. "It fueled me harder to get up here. If you don't take advantage of it, time passes you by. I had to look in the mirror and ask myself if I was giving 110 percent. I needed some self-reflection ... and here we are."
"He deserves a lot of credit for re-igniting his pro career the way he has," said manager Clint Hurdle.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.