Melky Cabrera wants everyone to know just how sorry he is. Sorry for cheating, sorry for lying, sorry for letting down the San Francisco Giants and their supportive city.
Cabrera returned to AT&T Park with Toronto on Tuesday night for the first time since receiving a 50-game suspension last Aug. 15 following a positive testosterone test.
"That was an ugly time for me and my family," Cabrera said in the dugout before batting practice. "I feel very sorry for what happened. I regret what happened. It's in the past. ... That was 2012. Now, it's 2013 and I'm focused on playing baseball."
A fan favourite during his brief stay in San Francisco, Cabrera encountered fans who recognized him during Monday's off day and said they were welcoming and friendly.
Sour Melk? Maybe not.
But Cabrera received loud boos when he came to the plate in the first inning. He then hit a leadoff single up the middle against Tim Lincecum.
Perhaps now everybody can move forward for good — and it certainly didn't hurt that the Giants went on to win a second World Series championship in three years despite Cabrera's absence. Cabrera was batting .281 with two home runs and 21 RBIs for the Blue Jays entering the game Tuesday night, when he was leading off and playing left field against his former club.
"Melk doesn't say much, all he does is smile," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "I'm sure he's looking forward to it. I don't know what the reception will be. He's just that guy who shows up and he's a fun-loving guy, he loves to play baseball and he's good at it. I'm sure he listens to the kind of reaction he gets. He's got the same demeanour every time."
Fans dressed in costume calling themselves "Melk Men" frequented the waterfront ballpark last spring to cheer Cabrera. Then, suddenly, he was gone for the stretch run.
"I want to tell the fans I'm sorry," Cabrera said. "They treated me great."
Holding on to regrets
Cabrera said he wishes he hadn't used a performance-enhancing drug to fuel his sensational season, and was saddened to miss out on winning the World Series with the Giants and his "great teammates." He spoke to many of them when the Giants played in Toronto from May 14-15.
San Francisco didn't add him to the post-season roster once he was eligible for the NL championship series.
"I kept working and getting ready and they told me their decision," Cabrera said. "I had to respect that. There was nothing I could do about it."
Cabrera, the 2012 All-Star game MVP who had 51 hits in May last year, received his World Series ring when the Giants visited Toronto.
Cabrera is used to being booed at ballparks around baseball, so he wasn't going to be too surprised by whatever reception he received.
"I'm sure it's going to be mixed a little bit. It's hard to say," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I think a lot of times initially a lot of them show their appreciation, but once the game starts they're for the home team and they let them have it. He did a great job when he was out there, really, probably, was one of our better players. That's fair to say. He kept us in it with his great play. I told him thanks. We all appreciate what he did for us when he was there on the field."
Bochy didn't understand why Cabrera's return was a big deal. It certainly wasn't for the Giants.
"The Melky thing, there's not even a player in there thinking about it," Bochy said. "We've moved on."
And Cabrera will now be able to focus on the rest of his 2013 season without having to look back to the embarrassment that was last year.
"I'm very happy to be back," he said. "My focus is just on playing the game."