Friday, August 17, 2012
Public Readings - San Francisco Giants move forward minus Melky Cabrera
Public Readings - San Francisco Giants move forward minus Melky Cabrera. Giants general manager Brian Sabean spent months piecing together a lineup that he believed could win another World Series title. When the team took on the league-leading Washington Nationals this week, seven of the 12 Giants position players had either been traded for or signed in the last year.
Before that series was over, the biggest chess piece, Melky Cabrera, had been taken off the board by a 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball.
"It was deflating," Sabean said. "I didn't see something like this coming. We've all been around this game a long time, and you're used to making changes and adjustments. But you get punched in the stomach, and you've got no choice but to figure out how to move on."
The immediate moves were to call up outfielder Justin Christian and right-hander Eric Hacker from Triple-A, but neither will be thrust into a big role. Hacker will take over as the long reliever, and Christian will back up the three remaining outfielders, including Gregor Blanco, who will get the first crack at filling Cabrera's everyday job.
Sabean said it's too early to call up top prospect Gary Brown, who is still developing in Double-A. As for solutions from outside the organization, Sabean wasn't optimistic, describing waiver wire options as "not too compelling or interesting."
Cabrera was among Sabean's most successful moves and put forth an All-Star season after being acquired in exchange for left-hander
Jonathan Sanchez. Thanks to a positive test for testosterone, Cabrera is gone, and Sabean said it was too early to know if he'll ever again don a Giants uniform.
"There are a lot of blanks to fill in as a result of this," he said.
In that respect, the Giants are fortunate to still have a legitimate All-Star roaming their outfield. Hunter Pence, picked up at the trade deadline, has a history of putting up numbers that can make up for Cabrera's loss. Pence has hit at least 20 homers in four consecutive seasons and had 17 home runs and 59 RBIs before the Phillies shipped him to San Francisco.
Pence is hitting .177 since the trade but broke through Sunday with a game-winning three-run homer and had three hits in Tuesday's victory.
"I still don't think I've caught my stride, but it's coming," Pence said. "It's going to be a tight race this whole way, and I've just got to continue the process of getting my swing back to where I'm really feeling like myself again.
Those words have been spoken at times by two young infielders whom the Giants see as a big part of the future. Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt are also now a huge part of the present.
Crawford has been in a shortstop platoon at times but is in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak and has been spectacular defensively, making just one error in the last 45 games. Belt slumped in July but is hitting .450 in August.
While discussing their desire to "face forward" in the wake of Cabrera's suspension, several Giants leaders pointed toward the corner of the clubhouse occupied by Belt, 24, and Crawford, 25.
"I've said for a while now that we know what we're capable of offensively," catcher Buster Posey said. "The team is happy with the guys we've got here."
Sabean is happy, too, and he admitted that he got emotional during a team meeting where he dispensed advice to a shellshocked group.
"We've got a survival instinct, seemingly," he said. "It's a good group; they've got enough character."
That character has been tested in the past two seasons. The Giants lost Posey to a gruesome leg injury, closer Brian Wilson to Tommy John surgery and All-Star Pablo Sandoval three times to minor injuries. But this loss is different; Cabrera's suspension was so stunning that Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy didn't even know about it until Wednesday morning. Cabrera was in the Giants' lineup until an hour before the series finale against the Nationals.
Shortly after Cabrera departed, Sabean and Bochy addressed a team that had already seen one teammate, Guillermo Mota, leave because of a violation of baseball's drug policy. Sabean asked for greater contributions across the board, not just from those who have to fill the gaping hole Cabrera left in the lineup.
"We've got to pitch better," Sabean said. "And win more games at home, which we haven't been doing lately."
Asked if the team he put together was still good enough to win the division, Sabean said it was too soon to know. But there was no indecision when it came to Cabrera, and to a lesser extent Mota. The organization often has dealt with a steroid cloud in recent years, and Sabean didn't mince words when asked about losing two contributors to lengthy PED suspensions.
"You have two veteran players that should know better," he said, "And evidently don't."
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