How will Giants proceed without Melky Cabrera?


How will Giants proceed without Melky Cabrera?


SAN FRANCISCO Melky Cabreras locker remained full of hisbelongings, including two baseballs resting on the top shelf. They areinscribed with Salmo 23 and Salmo 91.

The Lord is my shepherd, those baseballs would speak toCabrera after every game this season. Often, he would arrive at his chair aftercollecting two or three hits and scoring two or three runs. He was thedirt-stained catalyst who helped a woeful offense find an identity.

Now Cabrera is stained in another way. He is suspended for50 games after testing positive for testosterone. Following a lengthy appealsprocess, Cabrera accepted his punishment in an apologetic statement:My positive test was the result of my use of a substance Ishould not have used. I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and Iwill try to move on with my life. I am deeply sorry for my mistake and Iapologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organization and to thefans for letting them down.NEWS: Cabrera suspended

Its the only statement many of his teammates will hear.Cabrera had been in his customary place in left field and the No. 3 spot in theGiants lineup until nearly 90 minutes before the first pitch Wednesdayafternoon. Once the league informed the Giants of the suspension, Cabrera metwith manager Bruce Bochy and GM Brian Sabean.

He was hurt by it, to be honest, Bochy said. The fact hesnot going to be here to help us, that hurts him.

Then Cabrera left the building. He was not present whenBochy addressed the club to inform them that the team would be without themajor leagues hits and runs leader for the remaining 45 games of the regular season. Cabreradid not say goodbye to many teammates.

Although Bochy wouldnt look ahead to speculate on possiblywelcoming back Cabrera for the playoffs in case the Giants are fortunate enoughto get there and advance beyond five games, it would appear a good guess that their Melk Man hasplayed his final game in a San Francisco uniform.

Cabrera is a free agent after this season. Its harder toforgive and forget when your club is the one that pays the price in a pennantrace. (Although from what I gather, talks of a contract extension broke down before the Giants or Cabrera had any inkling that he had failed a PED test.)

This wasnt thefirst whiff of the possibility that Cabrera had flunked a drug test. Rumors have circulated for weeks, and Cabrera denied them when I asked him point-blank on July 27 whether he had failed a test. But regardless, Wednesday's news shocked Giants players. They had ahard time reconciling the idea that a quiet, well-liked, hard-working,Bible-reading teammate was a drug cheat.

There will be anger, of course, and there is accountability.

As Buster Posey said, It was just a bad decision. Im notreally going to say more than that.

That might have been the most pointed statement from asomber clubhouse following a 6-4 loss to the Washington Nationals. Tim Lincecumsaid the Cabrera news had no impact on his messy, 96-pitch, four-inningperformance. (I dont think anyof my pitches were in out-mode today, he said -- a thought thats almost asdisturbing as anything else that happened Wednesday.) Angel Pagan issued stern-eyedno-comments like they were jab combinations.

The most common reaction was some version of the following: Wehave to move on. Weve got a lot of baseball in front of is. We believe in whatwe have here. Its up to everyone to step up.

So on to practical concerns:

For starters, the Giants will make a pair of roster movesprior to Fridays game at San Diego. In addition to replacing Cabrera on theroster, theyre expected to add a second position player. Right-hander DanOtero, whose bag just landed in the Giants clubhouse, was optioned back toTriple-A Fresno. Justin Christian is the outfielder whos been in the majorsmost recently. The Giants will have to decide if its necessary, although farfrom perfect timing, to think about promoting Gary Brown from Double-ARichmond.

Gregor Blanco, a forgotten man following the Hunter Pence trade, started in left field Wednesday and snapped an 0-for-21streak. Bochy indicated that Blanco could get first crack at filling Cabrerasplace in the outfield.

We have a pretty good player who did a lot to get this clubgoing, Bochy said. I know hes had his struggles here, but hes a catalyst-type player. When something like this happens, everybodys got to step up.Hopefully Gregor is one of those guys.

The Giants also could try Marco Scutaro in left field. He hasntplayed that position since he roamed out there for three games in 2008. But hehadnt played third base in four years, either, and he did OK while PabloSandoval was out.

Bochy said he doubted first baseman Brandon Belt would get atrial in left field, but he wouldnt rule that out, either.

The Giants will be sure to re-double their efforts on thewaiver wire as well. The Mets, for one, had delayed putting Scott Hairston onwaivers. If they havent already, they have every motivation to stick him outthere and expect a nibble now. And theres Cody Ross on a sinking Red Sox team,too. Hey, crazier things have happened in this game. In fact, it wouldnt bethe first time Ross had gotten a chance because of a drug investigation.Remember Jose Guillen?

More immediately, the Giants have to get past the shock anddisappointment. The clichs are true: They have to pick up the slack.

And if Lincecum can pitch like his old self the next time hetakes the mound at Dodger Stadium, all the better.

The sad truth: The pressure now will be greater than ever onthe pitching staff -- just as its been here for years.

Reliable on the mound, Melancon seeks thrills off of it

Reliable on the mound, Melancon seeks thrills off of it

SAN FRANCISCO — At his introductory press conference Friday, new Giant Mark Melancon was asked about the fearlessness it takes to be a big league closer. He looked down at the first row of seats, where his wife Mary Catherine was sitting in a brand new No. 41 jersey, smiling. 

“You should probably ask my wife that,” Melancon joked.

When the Melancons got married, Mary Catherine had a calligrapher write up an actual bucket list of things the two could do together and presented it to Mark as a wedding gift. 

“It’s framed and it’s in our bathroom,” Mark said during an interview with CSN Bay Area on Friday. “It’s literally in our bathroom and we look at it all the time and try to plan out what we’re going to get done. Because it is on paper and it’s a goal and all that, we’ve checked off probably 40 or 50 percent of it in six years.”

The check marks include biking down the world’s “most dangerous road” in Bolivia and diving with great white sharks near New Zealand. The Melancons have visited Dubai and gone on a safari and stayed in countless cities off the beaten path. They have gone underwater with manta rays and high in the air in a blimp. Some of the items are simple ones, like attending a Nascar race. 

“There are a few items we’ll have to wait for until after baseball,” Melancon said. “We try to keep it safe of course, but it’s just a lot of fun. It’s a way to kind of bring creativity and allow ourselves to do things you could easily say no to.”

The standard MLB contract prohibits quite a few “dangerous” activities, and with a four-year, $62 million deal that is currently the second-biggest ever for a reliever, Melancon will hold off on certain trips, like skiing the Swiss Alps. “Attend the Kentucky Derby” is on the bucket list, but because the Derby is in May, that one is saved for retirement. In his first year with the Giants, Melancon hopes to put a check mark next to “sit backstage at a concert.”

Melancon said the thrill-seeking has slowed down a bit because the couple now has three young children, two daughters and a son. The Giants are hoping the more relaxed vibe carries over into their ninth innings. Team officials have been told by past Melancon employers that they signed a closer who is “boring” on the mound, in a good way. With a cutter-heavy approach, Melancon tends to get his ninth-inning work done quickly and without drama. That’s a welcome change of pace for an organization that has grown accustomed to “torture” late in games. 

“He was our target and we’ve gotten to know him, and the more we’ve gotten to know him the better we’ve felt about the fact that he was really meant to be a Giant,” team president and CEO Larry Baer said. 

The Giants had Melancon as their top offseason choice — and only big offseason expenditure — all along. Team officials feel even better about that approach after watching Melancon tour the ballpark Friday morning and meet with season-ticket holders and team employees. The fit was an easy one, with one member of the front office saying Melancon is “practically straight out of Giants central casting.”

Melancon’s new teammates feel the same way. He said eight to 10 of them have reached out since the deal was announced Monday. The group includes the types of players who are on any free agent’s bucket list of potential teammates. A ground ball pitcher, Melancon is looking forward to working with a Gold Glove infield. 

“That’s kind of an attractive thing to have a couple of Gold Glovers (up the middle) and then being able to throw to Buster is icing on the cake,” he said. “When you put things together on paper and go ‘who do you want to throw to and back you up,’ this team stands out.”

Dexter Fowler leaves Cubs, signs $82.5 million deal with Cardinals

Dexter Fowler leaves Cubs, signs $82.5 million deal with Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Dexter Fowler is headed from the World Series champions to their biggest rival.

After helping the Chicago Cubs end their long championship drought, he finalized an $82.5 million, five-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. Fowler fills the last big hole left in the Cardinals lineup after moves made earlier in the offseason to shore up the bullpen.

"It was an honor just to be considered to be in the Cardinals organization," said Fowler, who will wear No. 25 in honor of his mentor, Barry Bonds, because his usual 24 is retired by the Cardinals.

"You play against the Cardinals, I've been playing against them for eight years now," Fowler said, "and they always come out fighting. Always fighting. And then being with a rival, being the Cubs however many times we play them a year, you see them and - it's always good a winning team wants you."

Fowler was also a free agent a year ago, when he spurned a $33 million, three-year offer from Baltimore, who refused to offer an opt out after one year, and signed a $13 million, one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. He hit .276 with 13 homers and a career-best .393 on-base percentage that landed him in his first All-Star Game, then had a pair of home runs in helping the Cubs win their first World Series title in 108 years.

"Playing over there, and playing against the Cardinals, you see them and you saw that they weren't far away," Fowler said. "Obviously they beat up on us, we beat up on them. It was almost even. It was one day or another. I can't put my finger on one thing or another, but we're definitely close."

His new deal calls for a $10 million signing bonus, payable in $1 million installments each July 1 and Oct. 1 for the next five years, and annual salaries of $14.5 million.

He gets a full no-trade provision, $50,000 bonuses for making the All-Star Game and winning a Gold Glove, a $25,000 bonus for a Silver Slugger, $100,000 for League Championship Series MVP and $150,000 for World Series MVP. He would get $250,000 for NL MVP, $150,000 for finishing second in voting and $100,000 for third through fifth. He would get $50,000 for Division Series MVP if the award is created.

One of the goals this offseason for St. Louis was to get more athletic, both defensively and on the base paths. Fowler was identified early in the process as someone who filled that role.

"He was always someone we were hoping to sign," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said, "but after this past week at winter meetings ... we certainly wanted to get this done. And we're excited we got this done."

The lanky 30-year-old from Atlanta is a .268 career hitter over nine seasons with Colorado, Houston and the Cubs. He's expected to slot into the Cardinals' leadoff spot, giving St. Louis a switch-hitter in front of lefty-hitting Matt Carpenter and righties Aledmys Diaz, Stephen Piscotty and Yadier Molina.

"You obviously have great presence at the top of the lineup," manager Mike Matheny said. "The athleticism, the excitement of bringing in a player that has all those physical attributes, I think it's been well-said, this is the guy we were hoping to be sitting up here with."

Fowler said negotiations with the Cardinals were easy with one notable exception.

"We were on a 2-hour time difference, and I guess he wanted to get in touch with me," Fowler said, "but I was in the dentist chair, so he couldn't get in touch."

So, Fowler sent his agent Casey Close a photo of him to pass along to Mozeliak - "That was a first for me, that kind of photo," the GM said - and everything proceeded smoothly after that.

The news of his signing started breaking while Fowler was on a plane to St. Louis, and that also created some problems: namely, with his sleep. People started coming up to him while he was trying to take a nap and asking him whether the news was true.

"I was like, 'Uh, you know, I don't know,'" Fowler said with a grin. "It was definitely funny."

Fowler is eager to help the Cardinals add their 12th World Series championship.

"This is a baseball city," said Fowler. "The fans, every time you come here, you see red everywhere. That's awesome to see. Even going through our parade (in Chicago), you saw Cardinals fans out there. They've won World Series (and) they're poised to be back in the World Series and win again. That was a big part of my decision."

The Cardinals were investigating the trade market for an outfielder during the winter meetings, but decided Fowler was their best option. Because Fowler did not accept Chicago's $17.2 million qualifying offer, St. Louis forfeits its top draft pick next June, No. 18 overall, and the Cubs get an extra selection after the first round as compensation

It was a sacrifice the Cardinals were willing to make to not only improve their lineup, but snag a piece away from their biggest rival in the NL Central.

"There's always the baseball angle in all decisions, but there's also the human element," Mozeliak said. "We think about him as a leader. He wants to have a voice in that clubhouse. When you think back to wanting to change the culture of what we have going on - we like what we have, but now it's even better."