The casual atmosphere around batting practice usually features players standing around the cage, awaiting their turn.

But Michael Chavis looked anything but casual Thursday at Hadlock Field. When not in the cage, Chavis remained in his stance, repeating his swing as he timed the pitches.

After BP, Chavis sat in the Sea Dogs’ dugout, writing in a journal. Chavis, the top Red Sox prospect, records all his at-bats.

“My thought process while hitting, the pitchers I faced, the pitch sequence, stuff like that,” Chavis said.

But journaling batting practice?

“Especially early on. I need my BP thoughts, my cage thoughts, everything,” he said. “I need to establish that consistent day-to-day approach.”

Chavis, 22, is catching up to a season that’s already three months old. It’s a challenging proposal but nothing compared to the past few months.

“I lost so much sleep, staying up at night, really concerned with all this stuff,” Chavis said.

The “stuff” was an 80-game suspension Chavis had to serve after testing positive for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, a form of anabolic steroid. Chavis denied using any performance- enhancing drug and continues to search for an explanation for the positive test. He appealed the suspension, handed down by Major League Baseball, and was denied.

“I felt like it was a guilty-until-proven-innocent situation,” he said.

Chavis, outgoing and friendly, slows his speech when talking about the punishment. He searches for words. The ordeal has worn on him.

Challenging time? Chavis lets out a nervous laugh and pauses.

“Um, probably one of the toughest times in my life,” Chavis said. “You feel helpless.

“It’s been a grind mentally. But I know my innocence. And I believe everybody who knows me personally knows I didn’t do it … Anybody who knows me. I’ve never drank alcohol in my life. I’ve never had one sip. (Drugs) is not something I would do.

“But I’m ready to move past it … I’m done talking about it. You can only talk about it so much. It’s been the center of everything I’ve been doing … I’m tired of my name being brought up and that (the suspension) pops into mind.

“I’m a great ballplayer. I’m a good person. I’m a godly man. I hate that it’s brought distraction to the people around me as well as my teammates.”

But Chavis knows the reality. He’ll always be linked to the positive test.

“I can’t control it,” said. “If Joe Blow in the stands doesn’t know me and has never talked to me, he has no reason to believe me. I understand that.

“There will be a time when I’m playing in the big leagues and people will be talking trash in the stands. People will doubt me.”

The big leagues. Chavis’ goal was to be there sometime this year. He still holds out hope, but his chances would be much better if he didn’t start playing until July. Who knows? With Rafael Devers going on the disabled list Thursday, it might have been Chavis getting the call up to fill in.

Instead Chavis is getting his timing back. He hasn’t played competitive ball since the Arizona Fall League last year. Then, there were nothing but positive vibes around Chavis. Coming off a breakout year, when he hit 31 home runs combined in Salem and Portland, Chavis received an invitation to major league spring training.

But he suffered an oblique strain in training and never played a game. Then came the suspension, handed down April 6. At the time the Red Sox issued a brief statement:

“While we are disappointed by the news of this violation, we will provide the appropriate support to Michael. Going forward, the club will not comment further on the matter.”

Chavis remained at the Red Sox facility in Florida. He worked out, and took part in batting practice and infield drills. But he couldn’t play in extended spring training games.

“I love playing baseball,” Chavis said. “Ever since I was a kid, whenever bad things happened in my life, I could distance myself from that by playing baseball. But when this (suspension) happened, I wasn’t able to play baseball. I didn’t know what to do.”

Now he does. Chavis returned to Hadlock Field for the first time Thursday.

“I’m just excited to get back out with the guys, back on the field,” he said.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-7411 or:

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Twitter: @ClearTheBases