Cabrera takes responsibility, expresses remorse
Shortstop accepts 50-game suspension for violating MLB's drug policy
SAN DIEGO -- A tearful and emotional Everth Cabrera apologized to his organization, teammates and fans on Monday after the Padres shortstop was suspended for 50 games without pay for violating MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
MLB on Monday suspended 13 players as a result of the league's Biogenesis investigation. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez received the stiffest penalty -- a 211-game ban without pay through the end of the 2014 regular season. Rodriguez, 38, has appealed the suspension, which is to begin Thursday. His case will be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. Rodriguez's discipline, MLB said in its written announcement, is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years. Rodriguez's discipline under the basic agreement is for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to "obstruct and frustrate" the investigation.
The other players who were handed 50-game suspensions include Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo and recently demoted Mets utilityman Jordany Valdespin. Minor Leaguers Fernando Martinez, Jordan Norberto, Fautino de los Santos, Cesar Puello and Sergio Escalona were also suspended.
"I made a mistake," said Cabrera, who didn't take questions but spoke in detail of the events that led to him taking a banned substance in 2012.
Cabrera didn't appeal his suspension, which will begin immediately.
Cabrera said that he took a banned substance either before or during Spring Training of 2012 on the advice of Juan Nunez, a consultant of the Levinson brothers, Cabrera's former representation.
"In 2012, when I made the decision to take this, my shoulder wasn't even at 50 percent, and I wanted to be healthy for the spring," said Cabrera via an interpreter, noting he suffered a shoulder injury while playing in Triple-A during the 2011 season.
Cabrera wouldn't indicate what he took, but said he did so for a period of four days after receiving a package of the substance from Tony Bosch, who ran Biogenesis, the now-shuttered Florida clinic under investigation for allegedly supplying players with banned substances.
"My heart and my conscience were killing me. I knew it wasn't the best decision to make," Cabrera said.
Cabrera wasn't the only player in the Padres organization who earned a 50-game suspension on Monday.
De Los Santos also was suspended for 50 games. De Los Santos is still with the organization but is in Arizona rehabilitating his right shoulder after surgery in May.
"I made certain unsound decisions during the 2012 season, and I accept full responsibility for those choices," De Los Santos said in a statement released through his agency.
As for the 26-year-old Cabrera, he was enjoying a breakout season in 2013, in the field and especially at the top of the order.
Cabrera, hitting .283 with a career-high 108 hits in 95 games, leads the National League in steals (37). He also leads the Padres in hits and runs (54) and has four homers, 31 RBIs and a .355 on-base percentage.
"He's been incredibly valuable for us," Padres catcher Nick Hundley said on Monday. "At the top of the lineup, he was playing a great shortstop, and he gives you quality at-bats every time. We're definitely going to miss him."
Cabrera had two hits and knocked in two runs in the Padres' 6-3 victory over the Yankees on Sunday at Petco Park. The Padres (52-60) are 10 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West.
RULES FOR SUSPENDED PLAYERS
|What they can't do:|
|Cannot receive pay|
|Cannot participate in Arizona Fall League|
|Cannot participate in Postseason games|
|Cannot be elected or selected to the All-Star Game (if player is suspended during the offseason, Spring Training, or championship season prior to the All-Star Game)|
|What they can do:|
|Can participate in Spring Training and extended spring training|
|Can participate in affiliated Winter League games|
|Can work out with the club|
|Can participate in batting practice before the gates open before a game|
|Can consent to an assignment to a Minor League affiliate for a period of time prescribed under Section 7.H.2 of the Joint Drug Program|
The Padres open a two-game set at home against the Orioles on Tuesday, with infielder Logan Forsythe likely to play shortstop.
The Padres were supportive of the decision made by Major League Baseball on Monday.
"My reaction is one of support for Major League Baseball," said Padres general manager Josh Byrnes. "... It's a tough issue, and it hits close to home. But in the longer view, it's good for the game and necessary. It's a big day for Major League Baseball and for the players who have been clean for quite some time. ... Their voices are being heard. This is a painful, yet necessary, step."
Under the terms of the Basic Agreement, Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig has the power to suspend players for "just cause" in the absence of a failed drug test.
MLB's statement announcing the suspensions did not detail Cabrera's specific infractions nor did it make any reference to Biogenesis, but Cabrera certainly did.
"I didn't search for this. ... It's something that was presented to me," Cabrera said. "Never in my life or baseball career did I ever consider taking these substances. Even when I went to Spring Training, I wasn't comfortable with what I was doing."
Cabrera's suspension comes two weeks after Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun agreed to accept a season-ending suspension of 65 games without pay as a result of evidence uncovered in MLB's investigation of Biogenesis.
San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal, who was linked to Biogenesis in January, was not suspended. He previously served a 50-game suspension to start the season after testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone in 2012. The release Monday said Grandal would not receive additional discipline.
"We support the Commissioner and the drug policy," Hundley said. "I think the fans want to believe in players. They want to see them play and play well. They don't want to see the guys who test positive. The closer we get to that, the more the fans can believe in the game again. While [Cabrera's suspension] is disappointing for the organization, it's an exciting time for the game to be cleaned up."
Under terms of the Basic Agreement, players who fail drugs tests and don't win appeals are suspended for 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second and face a lifetime ban for a third.
After he was first linked to Biogenesis in February, Cabrera met with manager Bud Black and Byrnes during Spring Training.
Cabrera said at the time he was "surprised" and "disappointed" that he was linked to Biogenesis. The Padres were satisfied with what they heard from him on the matter.
"All along, we were hoping for the best in regards to Cabby. We felt, initially, that things were going to work out where he would be with us for the entire season," Black said Monday. "Apparently, there was more to the story than we thought initially.
"Hopefully through all this, Cabby has learned a valuable lesson and will be ready to play when the suspension is over."
Cabrera was arbitration-eligible for the first time this past winter, and he won't be eligible for free agency until 2017.
Cabrera's loss rates as a significant hit for the Padres, especially because he plays a premium position and plays it well.
Cabrera hit .305 with 31 steals and a .382 on-base percentage in his first 69 games of the season before landing on the disabled list with a strained left groin in June. He missed 17 games before returning to the lineup just prior to the All-Star break and then traveled to New York for the All-Star Game on July 16 at Citi Field, though he didn't appear in the game.
According to FanGraphs, Cabrera ranks fourth among all Major League shortstops in WAR (3.0).
"He was a catalyst," Black said of Cabrera in July.
In Cabrera's absence, the Padres will likely use Forsythe at shortstop. Forsythe has played 135 games in the big leagues at second base and six at shortstop -- five this season. Alexi Amarista can also play shortstop.
On Saturday, the team signed 30-year-old Ronny Cedeno to a Minor League deal in case it needed another shortstop. Cedeno, who has played with five clubs over nine big league seasons, was assigned to Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore.
The team is expected to add Cedeno to the roster on Tuesday, as Cabrera heads to the restricted list, thus opening a spot on both the 25-, and 40-man rosters.