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Almonte takes full responsibility for suspension

Outfielder says he's unsure how steroid got into his system, but expresses regret to team
MLB.com @MLBastian

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Abraham Almonte knows that he has put the Indians in a difficult position. On Saturday morning, the outfielder stood in front of his teammates and tried to find the words to express his regret over the developments of the past 24 hours.

Almonte said it was an exceptionally difficult task.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Abraham Almonte knows that he has put the Indians in a difficult position. On Saturday morning, the outfielder stood in front of his teammates and tried to find the words to express his regret over the developments of the past 24 hours.

Almonte said it was an exceptionally difficult task.

"It's hard, because you have to go in front of all the guys that are always pushing for you and helping you," Almonte said. "To me, the team is like a family. A big part of the game, or a small part of the game, I'm part of the team. The part that I see is that they have a missing part right now, and it might hurt the team. I hope not.

Video: Francona reacts to Almonte's 80-game suspension

"My responsibility now is to work as hard as I can to get ready and help my team whenever they need me back."

The only certainty right now is that Almonte will not be back for at least 80 games, which is the length of the suspension he received from Major League Baseball on Friday. Almonte was hit with the ban due to testing positive for Boldenone, an anabolic steroid that violates baseball's Joint Drug Treatment and Prevention Program.

After learning of the positive test, Almonte sat down with Indians manager Terry Francona and general manager Mike Chernoff on Friday to discuss the situation. While all parties, including Almonte, have indicated that the outfielder has taken "full responsibility" for the positive test, the outfielder maintained that he is unaware of how the performance-enhancing substance got into his system.

"Right now, I still don't know when it really happened," Almonte said. "Right now, I'm just trying to think and figure out what it is. For now, I don't really have any idea where it came from."

Francona said Almonte gave him the same message.

"We've talked a lot," Francona said. "Anytime you hear something like that, it's very shocking, but we listened to him talk, and it was a couple lengthy conversations. So, we had a little bit of time to digest some things and try to make sense of things. We'll probably continue to do that."

Tweet from @MLBastian: "We're just digesting the news." Almonte suspended 80 games for PEDs https://t.co/qjDmm6gqn0 via @mlb pic.twitter.com/NG4B2pvIs5

Almonte projected to be Cleveland's Opening Day center fielder -- at least as part of a platoon -- so the development strikes another blow to the Tribe's already depleted outfield. The Indians are also expecting to be without left fielder Michael Brantley for at least part of April, as he continues to rehab from November surgery to repair a labral tear in his right shoulder.

Behind veteran Rajai Davis and Lonnie Chisenhall, the Indians have a long list of outfielders vying for jobs this spring. Players such as Collin Cowgill, Joey Butler, Tyler Naquin and Will Venable, among others, will get a close look with both Brantley and Almonte temporarily out of the equation.

Francona said he will not urge Chris Antonetti, the Indians president of baseball operations, to pursue another free agent or two to fill the vacancies.

"I'm completely comfortable with the guys that are in our camp," Francona said. "I think we have the players in our camp that can handle what is asked. That's my quick opinion. I know Chris has a responsibility to do the things he can do and things like that, and [he] never stops, but I won't be pushing him to do something."

In the meantime, Almonte will remain in camp with the Indians, focusing on his strength and conditioning in the weeks leading up to Opening Day, when his suspension begins. The at-bats he would have received in Cactus League play will be distributed among the many outfielders looking to take his spot on the active roster.

Venable, who was signed to a Minor League contract with a non-roster invitation on Friday, knows Almonte from their days with the Padres.

"It's shocking," said Venable, who sat and chatted at length with Almonte on Saturday morning. "I'm probably not in too good of a position to comment on it. These things happen. However it is that there's things that got in his system, it's in his system and he's going to deal with it.

"But he's a really good guy and, I know, a guy who's going to handle this situation as well as he can."

Almonte began that process on Saturday.

"As a grown man, I'm taking all the responsibility for whatever was found in my body," Almonte said. "I'm 100 percent responsible for whatever was there. I hope this distraction doesn't hurt the team, and one of the most important things right now for me is that the team keeps doing what they're supposed to do. That's win, and not be distracted. I'll keep working hard to come back after 80 games and help my team to win."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.

 

Cleveland Indians, Abraham Almonte