Fans boo former Giants outfielder; ex-teammates indifferent
SAN FRANCISCO -- Melky Cabrera received a cold welcome from the fans at AT&T Park in his long-awaited return to San Francisco.
The former Giants outfielder was met with a round of boos after being introduced prior to the start of Tuesday night's game. The volume of jeers increased several minutes later when he stepped into the batter's box to lead off the game for Toronto.
It marked Cabrera's first public appearance in San Francisco since last year's 50-game suspension following a positive test for elevated testosterone. Even though the crowd's reaction came as anticipated, Cabrera said before the game that the trip was something he had been looking forward to.
"I'm very happy to be back here," Cabrera said through interpreter Luis Rivera. "I played here last year, they treated me well, I had great teammates and I'm happy to be back.
"I'm very sorry [to the fans] for the situation. They treated me great when I played here for San Francisco. I had a great time in the town along with the fans. I was walking the streets yesterday and people recognized me and welcomed me back."
Cabrera became a fan favorite in San Francisco last season and developed a bit of a cult following during a hot start to the year. He had 51 hits during an impressive run in May 2012 and Giants fans commonly dressed up as "Melk Men" to show their support.
Everything changed several months later when Cabrera was suspended in August. He initially denied the allegations but later admitted his wrongdoing and made a quick exit from the team without speaking to reporters.
Several of his Giants teammates attempted to reach out but would later say they never heard back. Cabrera essentially disappeared, and while he could have been reinstated in the postseason, the Giants declined to make that move.
The decision can hardly be criticized now considering San Francisco went on to win the World Series, and Cabrera insists there are no hard feelings, only regret.
"That wasn't my decision. That was their decision and I'm going to respect that," Cabrera said. "I got ready just in case they needed me after the suspension. They decided not to bring me back. I respect that decision; there's nothing I can do about it."
Cabrera's return to San Francisco came on the same day a report surfaced on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" that more than 20 Major League Baseball players could be suspended within the next few weeks for their connection to the Miami-area Biogenesis anti-aging clinic accused of supplying performance-enhancing substances to athletes.
The veteran left fielder was named in the report just like he was in a Miami New Times article that surfaced during Spring Training regarding the same controversy. General manager Alex Anthopoulos declined comment to reporters Tuesday. Cabrera was suspended for 50 games last season after he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone.
"If they suspend me again, I think that would be a harsh punishment because I already served my sentence. But it's up to them," Cabrera said to a New York Daily News reporter in Spanish. "I believe I've already served my sentence, especially missing the playoffs. That's what hurt me the most."
Tuesday night's game was the first time San Francisco fans had a chance to voice their displeasure with the city's former star, but Cabrera and the Giants already had an opportunity to bury the hatchet in Toronto.
The two sides met during a two-game series in the middle of May, and while Cabrera didn't get into specifics, he mentioned there had been time to catch up with his former teammates.
That could help explain why Tuesday's return was met with a lot of indifference inside of San Francisco's clubhouse.
"I'll be honest, I haven't heard any talk of him being back here," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I think the guys are hoping to get back on track [against the Blue Jays]. There's not a player in there even thinking about it, and they shouldn't be. I don't know why we're talking about this."
Inside the Blue Jays' clubhouse, some people didn't really know what to think. Cabrera is a relatively soft-spoken and shy individual who often keeps to himself or interacts mostly with those who have the ability to speak Spanish.
In English, language barriers often get in the way, so if there was any type of excitement or apprehension about playing in front of his former fans, Toronto manager John Gibbons wasn't aware of it.
The two previously worked together during Cabrera's 2011 season in Kansas City, and no matter the situation, Gibbons says his outfielder always has the same demeanor.
"Melky doesn't say much; all he does is smile," Gibbons said before Tuesday's game. "He was that way when we were together in Kansas City. You're not going to get a lot out of him. I'm sure he's looking forward to it. Melky's just the guy who loves to play baseball and is good at it. Whether it's here or in some sandlot, it'd be the same reaction I think."