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.