SAN FRANCISCO -- In what might be the most significant drug-related suspension since Major League Baseball implemented its current program in 2005, San Francisco Giants left fielder Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games Wednesday for failing a drug test.
The loss of Cabrera, who was leading the major leagues in hits with 159 and was named Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game last month, is devastating to the Giants, locked in a tight race with the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the National League West. But it also figures to cost Cabrera millions of dollars -- he is eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season.
Cabrera, who said he will not appeal the suspension, is essentially lost for the rest of the regular season. If the Giants can make the playoffs, Cabrera would not be eligible for reinstatement until the sixth postseason game provided the Giants get that far.
A statement from the commissioner's office said Cabrera tested positive for Testosterone.
"My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used," Cabrera said in a statement released through the Major League Baseball Players Association. "I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and will try to move on with my life.
"I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organization and to the fans for letting them down."
Cabrera has been the Giants' No. 3 hitter for much of the season and was a candidate for National League MVP. He was hitting .346, the second-best batting average in the league behind Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutcheon, who was batting .359 through Tuesday.
Cabrera also leads the NL with 159 hits and had 11 home runs, 60 RBI, a .390 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage.
The Giants were notified of the suspension less than two hours before Wednesday's game, in which Cabrera was to hit in his usual No. 3 spot in the batting order. Gregor Blanco replaced him in left field, and the lineup was juggled to have Pablo Sandoval hit third instead of fifth. Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt, normally the sixth and seventh hitters in the lineup, each moved up one spot, and Blanco batted seventh.
Ironically, the Giants got to use what they considered their "A" lineup for exactly one game. They defeated Washington 6-1 Tuesday night with Cabrera batting third, Buster Posey fourth, Sandoval fifth and Pence sixth. That was the middle of the order they envisioned when they acquired Pence from Philadelphia on July 31.
Howeever, CSNBayArea.com columnist Andrew Baggarly reported nearly three weeks ago that rumors had surfaced of Cabrera failing a drug test. Baggarly subsequently apologized, but he reported Wednesday that, according to sources, Cabrera's failed test occurred right around the time of the All-Star Game. The delay was to allow Cabrera to go through the appeals process.
Manager Bruce Bochy said he told the team the news in a meeting about 90 minutes before the start of a 6-4 loss to Washington.
"Melky, he was hurt by it," Bochy said. "It's obvious he was disappointed."
Tim Lincecum, the losing pitcher Wednesday, said, "It's shocking and something we're going to have to deal with from here on out. This Melky situation is like an injury where we've lost pivotal players, important players at important parts of the year so we'll just approach it at that. ...
You come in here to prepare for a game and that's what you hear but you just deal with it after the fact."
Reliever Clay Hensley admitted that Giants players felt a "mixture of anger" toward Cabrera but mostly were just shocked.
"We all wish him the best and we're all going to be behind him whenever he
gets back, but right now we've got to concentrate on trying to win these games so we can make it in the playoffs," Hensley said.
Belt, whose recent hot streak becomes all the more meaningful with Cabrera gone, summed up the mood of the team when he said, "I don't think anybody had a clue."
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