SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Giants didn’t add Melky Cabrera to their postseason roster last year, but they’ve already sized him up for a World Series ring.
Cabrera, the disgraced former left fielder, was suspended for 50 games on Aug. 15 after testing positive for exogenous testosterone. He did not apologize or otherwise address the issue with teammates before leaving the club, which left some hard feelings that continue to linger.
But there was never any notion to deprive him of a World Series ring, Giants CEO Larry Baer told me. In fact, GM Brian Sabean recommended to Baer that Cabrera receive one of the Tiffany and Co. created rings for his contributions in helping them to win the NL West.
This is less controversial than it sounds. All players who spend any time on the roster during a championship season receive a ring. Back in 2010, Fred Lewis began the season on the disabled list and was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in April. He didn’t play one inning for the Giants. And he got a ring after his former club won the World Series. Bengie Molina, who actually played for the Texas Rangers club the Giants beat in 2010, got a ring, too.
Cabrera’s situation was no different. He played. He gets a ring.
“There wasn’t any discussion (of Cabrera),” Baer said. “I got a recommendation from Brian and it was that he deserves a ring.”
Cabrera was eligible for the NLCS and World Series rosters but the Giants didn’t add him, even though he was hitting .346 while leading the majors in hits and runs scored on the day the league suspended him. The Giants did not want to create a distraction that could disrupt team chemistry, and there were no dissenting voices in the clubhouse to that decision.
The issue came up Friday because Cabrera was asked about it when he reported to camp with the Blue Jays, who signed him to a two-year, $16 million deal in November.
He said through an interpreter that he didn’t know if he’d get a ring, but he felt he deserved one.
Those comments caught Baer off guard, because the Giants already asked for and received Cabrera’s ring size.
“I don’t know who called who, but we’ve got his size,” Baer said. “The size was requested and it’s being produced as we speak.”
Don’t expect Cabrera to receive the ring in a public ceremony on the field when the Blue Jays play June 4-5 at AT&T Park, or when the Giants go to Toronto May 14-15. Baer acknowledged it’s not the same situation as Juan Uribe or Edgar Renteria, two heroes from the 2010 postseason who signed elsewhere after that season.
Uribe was a Dodger when he received his ring in a tearful ceremony on the field. Renteria, the World Series MVP, also broke down when his former teammates welcomed him prior to a game against the Cincinnati Reds at AT&T Park.
“This is clearly a different situation,” Baer said. “Putting aside the obvious differences, Edgar and Juan were on the team through the playoffs.”
Cabrera extended one olive branch last year, when his agent worked with union and league officials to amend a rule that would have qualified him for the batting title. Because he wasn’t awarded the one plate appearance he needed to qualify, Buster Posey was recognized as the official NL batting champ with a .336 average.
Cabrera issued a statement in which he said he was “very happy” that Posey won instead.
But a batting title is just a title, with no dollar signs attached. Don’t expect Cabrera to give back the car he won as All-Star Game MVP, even though I’m told his positive test came in early July.
Here’s the full text of his statement:
"Last season ended for me when I admitted taking a banned substance and accepted and served my punishment of a 50-game suspension. Since that day, my goals have been to serve my punishment and to put that mistake behind me, and to work hard to be the best baseball player I can be.
"At the end of last season, when it became clear that I would win the batting title despite my positive test, I asked the Players Association and MLB to make sure a more deserving player won, and I am very happy that my former teammate Buster Posey won that award instead of me.
"I also accepted the Giants' decision not to bring me back for the playoffs after I served my punishment. Instead, I continued to work hard so I could be ready for the 2013 season. I hoped and expected that I would be allowed to put my mistake behind me and to start this season fresh.
"I am aware that in the past weeks, there have been news articles written about so-called patient files from a Miami clinic, and the MLB and others are investigating those allegations. I have told MLB I will cooperate in their investigation the best I can, just as my legal counsel has told federal investigators. I have been instructed by legal counsel not to answer questions relating to the pending investigations.
"This statement will be the last comment I will make on the events of the 2012 season. I have put my mistakes behind me, have learned my lesson, and have served my punishment. I am here to play the best baseball I can to help the Toronto Blue Jays win a world championship."
The Giants became the first team since the 1987 Cardinals to hit the fewest home runs in the majors and make the playoffs, but don’t expect Bruce Bochy to embrace Whiteyball 2.0.
Bochy said it’s entirely possible to win games without home runs if you’re pitching well and catching the ball. But he moved quickly to qualify that comment.
“Now, make no mistake, I like home runs,” he said, smiling. “I like power. And I do think we’ll hit more home runs this year. We’ll have a healthy (Pablo) Sandoval and we’ll have (Hunter) Pence all year.”
The first full squad workout is on Saturday and they’ll jump right into live batting practice on Sunday. Maybe some of those WBC-bound pitchers on the Giants staff can practice throwing inside to Sandoval.
The Giants know they were fortunate when it came to the health of their starting pitchers last season. They only needed a sixth starter twice, once because of a doubleheader (Eric Hacker) and the other time in the season’s final series (Yusmeiro Petit) while they lined up their starters for the postseason.
The Giants and Reds became the first teams to get 30 starts from five different starting pitchers since the 2005 White Sox.
It’s hard to imagine going through another year with no bumps in the road. So you might want to keep Chris Heston in mind. The right-hander was a former 12th-round draft pick out of East Carolina University, and he doesn’t have a top-prospect pedigree. But he just keeps recording outs at every level, and was the ERA leader while winning Pitcher of the Year honors in the arm-rich Double-A Eastern League.
Heston is a strike thrower with a four-pitch repertoire.
“I like his delivery,” Bochy said. “It looks like he commands the ball well and it’s moving well. It looks like he knows what he wants to do.”
One more detail: He’s already on the 40-man roster. That always makes it easier to get him to the big leagues.
Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner were among those to throw their side sessions. Nothing seemed out of place with any of them. Just getting their work in.
All position players are expected to report on time, Bochy said.
Right-hander Jose Valdez sorted out his visa issue and reported to camp. He is 6-foot-8 and not scrawny, either.
It’s a matter of time before someone nicknames him “Tiny.”