SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean insists his club’s two suspended veteran players should have known better than to use performance-enhancing drugs.
A day after outfielder and All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera received a 50-game suspension for a positive testosterone test, Sabean said Thursday he was shocked when he received word of the suspension from Major League Baseball on Wednesday morning, not long before San Francisco’s series finale against the Washington Nationals. Manager Bruce Bochy broke the news to his team about 90 minutes before first pitch.
“I was so taken aback it was deflating,” Sabean said. “I was actually in the meeting with Bruce when he talked to the players and I kind of got emotional because I didn’t see something like this coming. We’ve all been around this game a long time. You get used to making changes and adjustments. Things happen out of left field, a lot like life, and this was one of those things you’re punched in the stomach with. But you’ve got no choice but to figure out how to move on.”
The Giants — who trailed the Dodgers by one game in the NL West heading into Thursday’s off day — will continue to work to educate players regarding the major league drug program.
“In our case, it’s two veteran players who should know the policy and should know the consequences and should know better,” Sabean said on a conference call. “We follow the lead of Major League Baseball, and they do have a program in place, along with the union. I think our staff has been very diligent and has bent over backwards.”
Gregor Blanco will move into the regular role as left fielder in place of Cabrera, who joins reliever and teammate Guillermo Mota as two of the four big leaguers suspended this season.
San Francisco is calling up right-hander Eric Hacker and outfielder Justin Christian ahead of a weekend series at San Diego. In terms of finding another outfielder or hitter via the waiver wire, Sabean isn’t optimistic that will happen to boost his roster for the playoff push.
“Not too compelling or interesting,” said Sabean, who made several late-season acquisitions that paid off during his team’s improbable run to the World Series title two years ago.
Sabean began to hear rumblings last month of a possible positive test by Cabrera, who publicly acknowledged to CSN Bay Area on July 27 that he had been tested the previous week.
“When it first came out, I think we were taken aback and wondering if it was rumor or it had any substance,” Sabean said. He noted his trade with Philadelphia to acquire right fielder Hunter Pence on the July 31 trade deadline was a separate case altogether as Pence is someone the Giants tried to get at last year’s deadline.
The Giants had already spoken with Cabrera’s representative about a possible contract extension considering he becomes a free agent after this season, yet those talks didn’t last long as it was — well before the suspension.
“It was a conceptual conversation and it never really went anywhere,” Sabean said.
Cabrera might have cost himself tens of millions with this.
The suspension of Cabrera is the first for a high-profile player since 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun had his suspension overturned by an arbitrator last winter.
“That is crushing, obviously, just to hear that our best hitter’s not going to be in the lineup,” pitcher Tim Lincecum said.
Cabrera is batting .346 with 11 home runs and 60 RBIs in his first season with San Francisco and is five hits shy of 1,000 in his big league career. Flashing bright orange spikes, he singled and hit a two-run homer off Texas pitcher Matt Harrison last month in the National League’s 8-0 win in the All-Star game, earning MVP honors for the game and securing homefield advantage for the World Series.
Whether the Giants will even get to the postseason after missing last year is unclear. Sabean and Bochy are encouraged by the offensive strides from both Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, and how the team already weathered two injury absences by All-Star third baseman Pablo Sandoval and also the loss of closer Brian Wilson for the year.
“We believe in what we have here,” center fielder Angel Pagan said.
While Cabrera is gone, Mota is eligible to return Aug. 28, barring rainouts. His minor league rehabilitation assignment is under way in Arizona. It was not immediately known whether Cabrera’s positive test occurred before the All-Star game.
In the clubhouse on Wednesday’s getaway day, Cabrera’s belongings and Giants gear remained intact as his stunned teammates braced to play the rest of the way without arguably their top hitter.
“People are going to make mistakes, we’ve all made them,” reliever Clay Hensley said. “It’s tough, because you don’t know what’s going through someone’s head. He will just have to suffer the consequences.”