DUNEDIN, Fla. – Melky Cabrera calls his use of performance-enhancing drugs last season a mistake that he’s paid the price for, and is looking forward to a fresh start with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The tainted outfielder checked into spring camp Friday, and the club quickly pre-empted questions about his suspension for testosterone use last season and subsequent links to the Biogenesis clinic in Miami by issuing a statement saying he will co-operate with Major League Baseball and federal investigators and under the advice of counsel and will issue no other comments on the matter.
Blue Jays PR staff opened a 20-minute availability with Cabrera – who answered questions through interpreter Luis Rivera, the club’s third base coach – with a reminder of that, and the 28-year-old stuck to what was doubtlessly a carefully planned script.
He repeatedly referred to his "mistake" but dodged a question about the motivations that led him to that mistake.
Cabrera added that "he cannot predict the numbers that I’m going to have," pointing out that "the only thing I know is that I worked out six days a week in the Dominican to be ready for this season and I’m looking forward to opening day. I’m ready."
And when asked if he had made any changes to his game other than the use of PEDs that helped spike his numbers, he replied: "I always work hard."
"I’m always in the cage, always working. I’m always willing to play every game. I give everything that I have on the field and that doesn’t change," Cabrera continued. "I’ve really worked hard in the Dominican, six days a week, knowing that it’s going to be a long season.
"I’m looking forward to this season and hopefully I can have a great year."
Cabrera was suspended 50 games last August in the midst of a career season for the San Francisco Giants, batting .346 with 11 homers and 60 RBIs in 113 games.
Though he could have returned at some point during the post-season, the Giants chose not to activate him for their World Series run.
He’s unsure whether he will get a World Series ring from the Giants but feels "like I deserve a ring."
"I gave everything to that organization when I was playing for them," he continued. "I understand that I made a mistake. If they decide not to give me a ring, I’m going to understand also."
Cabrera signed with the Blue Jays in November mere days after the blockbuster with the Miami Marlins, agreeing to a US$16-million, two-year deal as a free agent, a decision general manager Alex Anthopoulos described as "an educated guess" made because "the contract was right, the price was right for us."
"For greater certainty you’re going to be paying more, rightfully so," said Anthopoulos. "That’s part of the risk we took and we’re out there on that, I understand that."
Last month, the how behind Cabrera’s doping may have come to light in a Miami New Times report based on the personal records of Biogenesis chief Tony Bosch.
In them, Bosch makes 14 references to Cabrera, some pointing to him receiving "troches," described by him as a lozenge containing 15 per cent testosterone, and "pink cream," which also contains testosterone.
Major League Baseball is probing Cabrera’s involvement with the clinic but provided no new evidence is unearthed, he won’t be punished again for a transgression within the same period.
There are also complications about punishing someone retroactively for a second transgression, and whether that can stand as a second discipline.
The union would like demand a higher standard of evidence before relenting to further sanctions.
"I have told MLB I will co-operate in their investigation the best I can, just as my legal counsel has told federal investigators," Cabrera said in the statement. "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."
Though expressionless for the majority of his conversation with media – an opportunity he says he was "looking forward to" because "I wanted to face the press and the people" – he was greeted warmly in the clubhouse, exchanging hugs and wide smiles with his new teammates beforehand, a new Blue Jays cap perched atop his head and tilted to the side.
"When I walked into the clubhouse, they received me with open arms," said Cabrera. "I got a hug from everybody. I know a lot of guys on the club – Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes. They already told me, ‘This is your home. Don’t worry about it, just feel like this is home for you. It’s our home now.’"
Manager John Gibbons doesn’t expect Cabrera to have trouble dealing with the doubts and questions, and watched his left-fielder take batting practice afterwards.
"It was important for him to get in front of (media) and answer some questions," said Gibbons. "It’s over as far as I’m concerned and hopefully as far as he’s concerned."