Former teammates express no ill will after suspension last year
Special to MLB.com
TORONTO -- A day Melky Cabrera will likely never forget came with little fanfare at Rogers Centre on Tuesday. The Blue Jays left fielder was presented with a World Series ring from Giants manager Bruce Bochy for his contributions to San Francisco's 2012 championship team.
Cabrera then proceeded to torch his former club for a season-high four hits, which also matched a career high, and two RBIs in a 10-6 Blue Jays win. He reached on an error to kick off a six-run first inning and added an RBI single in his second at-bat of the frame. Cabrera also drilled an RBI double down the right-field line in the seventh.
His big offensive night came with the assistance of some of the bats he left behind in San Francisco last season. Giants equipment manager Mike Murphy shipped the bats to Cabrera and he used them for Tuesday's contest.
"He definitely had his old approach going," Giants starter Barry Zito said.
There were no pregame festivities or anything flashy on the field to recognize Cabrera as he received his ring, since the 28-year-old chose to accept it in private, Bochy said. Following Tuesday's game, however, Cabrera said it was Bochy who requested the private exchange and he just went along with the skipper.
"It was Bochy's decision," Cabrera said through interpreter Luis Rivera. "Whatever he wanted to do. He decided to do it before the game and that's fine. If he wanted to do it on the field, that would have been fine, too, but he decided to just do it here, inside."
Regardless of who made the decision to keep things private, it was not at all shocking to keep the media away from the conversation after the way Cabrera's tenure with the Giants ended.
Cabrera's career season was cut short in mid-August after he received a 50-game suspension for testing positive for testosterone, a performance-enhancing drug. At the time of the suspension, the 2012 All-Star Game MVP was batting a National League-best .346 with 11 homers and a career-high .906 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), while playing left field and hitting in the middle of the Giants' lineup.
Bochy didn't elaborate to reporters before the game about what he planned to say to Cabrera, who declined a pregame request to talk with reporters through a Blue Jays spokesperson, but the manager said after Tuesday's contest that his first encounter with the Dominican native since his suspension went well.
"It was brief. He was thankful and excited that he got the ring," Bochy said. "I thanked him for his contributions; it was pretty simple. I think he was looking forward to getting it and he seemed really excited to get his ring.
"He was a good teammate with us. He played hard every day, he did a lot of good things for us. It's unfortunate what happened. We all make mistakes. He was a good guy to have on the club; he did all that we asked. And like I said, he played hard, he played the game right. What has happened is behind us."
Cabrera felt the same way.
"I'm very happy. I got a chance to talk to Bochy before the game and I got a ring," Cabrera said. "He told me that he knows I contributed for that team to win and was a big part of that team making it to the World Series. People make mistakes. You just continue to play and move on."
Cabrera, who greeted former teammates and coaches during batting practice, was eligible to return to the Giants during the playoffs, but the team elected to hold him off its roster during its postseason run, which had no effect on the club's success. San Francisco went on to win its second World Series title in three years without Cabrera playing a single game past Aug. 14.
The way in which Cabrera left the team rubbed some the wrong way. After learning of his suspension, the outfielder exited AT&T Park without addressing his teammates, and later one of his associates put together a phony website to try to avoid suspension. But after MLB investigators determined that the website was not legitimate, Cabrera accepted responsibility for his use of PEDs and the rest of the story is history.
On Tuesday, he attempted to clear the air about how the whole situation went down.
"When I heard the news, somebody told me it was better for me to leave," Cabrera said. "I would have liked to talk to the players, but they told me to leave."
Who that person was, Cabrera didn't say.
And for at least one former teammate and friend in Gregor Blanco, whatever happened is in the past and he won't turn his back on Cabrera.
Blanco described Cabrera as a great teammate and player with a tremendous work ethic who taught him a lot about baseball not only during their time in San Francisco, but also in Atlanta, where they played together during the 2010 season. The 29-year-old Blanco said he picked Cabrera's brain a lot during that season and thinks it has had a positive effect on his career.
The two haven't spoken, however, since Cabrera dashed out of AT&T Park following the news of his suspension. Blanco was looking forward to finally seeing him again in Toronto.
"He did good stuff for us. He was one of our key players and for sure he deserves a ring," Blanco said. "It's good to have a friend like Melky."
Hunter Pence, whom the Giants acquired from the Phillies at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last season, played with Cabrera for only two weeks before his suspension, but felt that the Giants honoring him with a World Series ring in person was the right thing to do.
"I don't have too much to say about it, but I'm happy he's getting a ring," Pence said. "We all learn lessons from these things and we move on and grow together."
Despite Cabrera's use of PEDs, Toronto didn't blink when he became available as a free agent this offseason. Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos signed Cabrera to a two-year, $16 million deal and was adamant that Toronto is an organization willing to give players a second chance. So far, Cabrera has struggled to provide the Blue Jays with the offense it expected, but he has picked it up as of late.
Cabrera is batting .271 on the year with one home run and a .670 OPS, but is hitting .352 with six of his nine extra-base hits in May.