Melky Cabrera was a Yankee from 2005-2009 and along the way forged close friendships with teammates Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter while helping the team to a World Series title in 2009.
Three years after that World Series, Cabrera blossomed into the star many projected he was going to be, doing so for the San Francisco Giants. Earlier Wednesday, Cabrera’s stardom was derailed when he tested positive for elevated amounts of testosterone.
Cabrera will be suspended for 50 games, meaning that he will miss the final 45 regular season games and the first five games of the postseason or the 2013 season with whatever team signs him in free agency.
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The reaction around the Yankees was of surprise, disappointment and support but also a reminder that testing for performance enhancing drugs has worked since it was implemented.
“It’s disappointing,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Obviously Melky means a lot to all of us as far as our championship. He provided some really good moments here. It’s something that you don’t ever want to have to deal with and it’s something that baseball’s trying to stay away from, but it happens.”
Cano was relaxing at his corner locker when the news flashed over the clubhouse televisions. He did not say much but expressed complete surprise at this turn for his close friend.
“Oh, 100 percent surprised,” Cano said. “I was just here in my chair when I watching the news. I don’t know, man. I never used any of those. I don’t know any details about it. I just see the news. I’m just sad about it and I’m going to be there for him.”
Jeter perhaps issued the strongest statement saying that he felt bad that he had to even talk about it, but said it served as a reminder of the success of testing.
“I don’t know if you can be more surprised,” Jeter said. “I don’t know if you can measure it, more surprised for him as opposed to somebody [else]. It’s just surprising in general. I played with Melky, so I always thought he was a good player. I know Melky’s very talented. He has a lot of great tools. He played well for us when he was here. He played well in Kansas City when he went to Kansas City and he’s played well in San Francisco. Melky’s always been talented.”
Rodriguez is the most prominent Yankee with a PED past. He admitted in a spring training press conference in March 2009 to using during his three seasons with the Rangers and has often said the experience of coming clean has cleared his mind.
Rodriguez has spent time working out with Cabrera during the offseason and is hoping the same can happen for his former teammate.
“From my experience I saw where he made a statement. That’s always a good first step and sometimes the hardest but I think he has an opportunity being a young player,” Rodriguez said. “But with that said, it’s also going to be a challenge and I hope he takes the bull by the horns and does some great things.”
Like Cano, Rodriguez reiterated his support for Cabrera, saying he would send a text or make a phone call.
“I’m a believer,” Rodriguez said. “I’m a friend. And at times like this, I will definitely not turn my back. I’m 100 percent here to support him.”
Good news for Rodriguez
Rodriguez also had an X-ray Tuesday on his broken hand three weeks after injuring it in Seattle. He’ll another one Sunday and hopes that good news will continue with its recovery and will give him a clearer date as when he can resume batting practice.
“It showed good [Tuesday],” he said. “We have another one on Sunday. After that one, we’ll have more news for you.”
Swisher to second succeeds
In his first career at-bat as a second place hitter on July 27, 2005 against Cleveland’s Scott Elarton, Nick Swisher lined an RBI double for Oakland. That was one of four times Swisher hit there during his first full season.
He did it more extensively the following year and in the second of 76 games there, Swisher hit a two-run home run off Vicente Padilla. During Oakland’s last playoff season, Swisher batted .220 there while hitting nearly half of his 31 home runs.
Since those early days of hitting second, Swisher’s numbers in the two-hole have improved steadily especially as a Yankee. The biggest sample of Swisher’s success as a second-place hitter was the .275 average and 17 home runs he hit out of that spot two years ago.
Since Swisher was moved up to the two spot last week, he has nine hits in 30 at-bats with a pair of home runs and 10 RBIs while the Yankees have won six of seven.
“I’ve had a taste pretty much of every spot since I’ve been here,” Swisher said. “I feel as of late I’ve kind of been that on-base guy. I’ve drawn a ton of walks, I really feel I’ve seen a lot of pitches and I feel that’s really helped me get back in the groove. I just feel it’s a good spot for me. I like being there. … The biggest thing everybody wants is that set lineup. So when you show up everyday you know what the lineup is going to be.”
“He’s been really good there for us,” Girardi said. “He’s taken his walks, he’s had big hits for us, he’s started rallies and he’s done a number of things for us. That two-run homer is a tremendous at-bat because I think he saw maybe four, five, maybe even six fastballs before he threw him a pretty good slider down and in. Swish laid off it and then got the next pitch and hit it out for the home run.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.