Lost in the news that Melky Cabrera had tested positive for testosterone and would be suspended by the MLB for 50 games without pay was the situation it left the San Francisco Giants in on Wednesday.
The team is now once again without a big bat in the middle of the lineup, making the acquisition of Hunter Pence at the trade deadline all the more crucial.
Cabrera was second in the MLB in batting average (.346) and led the league in hits with 159.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after the team lost to the Washington Nationals, 6-4, that he first heard the news Wednesday morning before the game.
He then informed the team and had a brief conversation with Cabrera.
“He was hurt by (the news),” Bochy said. “He was obviously disappointed. Also, the fact that he is not going to be here to help us, that hurts him.”
Bochy said he had made the lineups for the finale against the Nationals on Wednesday prior to hearing the news of Cabrera’s suspension, but was forced to substitute Gregor Blanco for Cabrera once the news broke.
“We’re disappointed,” Bochy said. “Melky was having a real nice year for us. Our thoughts right now are that we have to move on. This team will remain focused and we will try to win ballgames.”
Of the four players suspended this season due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy, two of them are members of the Giants.
Guillermo Mota was suspended 100 games in early May for the second violation of his career, and Cabrera’s suspension came down on Wednesday.
This comes in the wake of the Barry Bonds and BALCO scandals that have clouded the team’s image in the past.
“There’s some things you can’t control,” Bochy said. “This has not just happened with the Giants, it’s all of baseball. The best thing we all can do in Major League Baseball is educate these guys and make sure they are informed of it.”
In Cabrera’s place batting third in the lineup on Wednesday was Pablo Sandoval, who is presumed to have that spot become permanent throughout the remainder of this season.
He went 2-for-4 against Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals on Wednesday.
Reliever Clay Hensley said the team will miss Cabrera’s bat in the middle of the lineup but that the team will have to move on without him.
“He’s going to have to suffer the consequences, but we need to put it behind us as a team.
“You can always forgive anyone for anything. It’s a learning experience,” Hensley said.
Tim Lincecum took the mound an hour and a half after learning of Cabrera’s suspension, and had the tough task of putting together a good outing against the best team in baseball with the absence of Cabrera in the back of the team’s mind.
The result was a loss on Wednesday, as he went four innings allowing four runs.
“It is crushing, obviously, to hear that our best hitter is not going to be in the lineup,” Lincecum said. “It’s just like a day where they took the day off. You just have to approach it that way.”
In Cabrera’s absence, players like Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence will be called on even more now that one of the MLB’s best hitters is not in their lineup.
Belt said there is not much this team can do at the moment but go out and do their job on the field.
“It was a little bit shocking at first, but somebody is going to have to step up -- somebody is going to have to step up,” Belt said.
“It is a blow, but we have been through this before,” Belt said.
The Giants have lost Sandoval at points this season and closer Brian Wilson for the entirety of it.