Giants

EXCLUSIVE: Melky Cabrera ruled ineligible to win batting crown

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EXCLUSIVE: Melky Cabrera ruled ineligible to win batting crown

Programming note: Catch complete coverage of the Melky Cabrera story tonight on Giants Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m., and get a recap of all the day's news on SportsNet Central at 6, 10:30pm and midnight, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!

SAN FRANCISCO In an unprecedented agreement betweenMajor League Baseball and union officials, suspended Giants outfielder MelkyCabrera will be ruled ineligible to win the 2012 NL batting title, sources toldCSNBayArea.com.

Cabrera asked to be removed from consideration on Wednesday,when his representatives sent a letter to union officials. The PlayersAssociation worked out a one-time amendment to Rule 10.22(a) with MLB officialson Thursday, one day after Commissioner Bud Selig said publicly that he was not likely to take action on the matter.

Cabrera, who is hitting .346, will finish one plate appearanceshort of qualifying for the batting title. Rule 10.22(a) permits a player to berecognized as the official winner if extra hitless at-bats are added to hisaverage and it remains higher than any qualifying player. (Cabreras average would fall from .3464 to .3456 still.346 when rounded up.)

RELATED: Melky Cabrera career stats 2012 game logs News

Under terms of the agreement, Rule 10.22(a) will not apply to suspended players.

Cabreras request to refuse the extra at-bat is a clear attempt to rehab hispublic image and market value, both of which were tarnished by his Aug. 15suspension for testing positive for testosterone. The 27-year-old switch hitter sustained furtherdamage to his reputation through subsequent revelations that a liaison paid byhis agents, the Levinson brothers, created a phony Web site and product in anattempt to persuade the league that Cabrera inadvertently took a bannedsubstance.

In a statement to be released shortly, Cabrera said he had no wish to win an award that would be tainted, and that he believed it would be far better for someone more deserving to win.

The NL batting title now becomes a legitimate race betweenPittsburghs Andrew McCutchen (.339) and Cabreras former teammate, BusterPosey (.335). Both players are expected to be among the top finishers in MVPballoting as well.

No Giant has won a batting title since Barry Bonds hit .362in 2004.

I am grateful that the Players Association and MLB were able to honor my request," Cabrera said in a statement. "I know that changing the rules mid-season can present problems, and I thank the Players Association and MLB for finding a way to grant my request.

Cabrera was informed of his positive test at some point inJuly and the 50-game ban was announced Aug. 15 after his appeals wereexhausted. The Giants had 45 games remaining in the regular season when thesuspension was handed down.
REWIND: Cabrera suspended 50 games for positive testosterone test

The Giants could clinch the NL West title as early asSaturday, and in the event they play more than five postseason games, Cabrera wouldbe eligible to return.

Although Cabrera has not seen live pitching in more than amonth, sources tell CSNBayArea.com that he remains hopeful the Giants willdirect him to return once hes eligible. He continues to work out and keephimself in shape under terms of him uniform player contract, although sourcessaid he is not working out at any team facilities.

The Giants are not keen on bringing back Cabrera for thepostseason, citing the distraction factor as well as his questionable readinessfollowing a 50-game ban. But the club must remove him from the restricted listwhen his suspension is up. Although they could face a grievance if they do notadd him to the roster, the club could always cite baseball reasons for leavinghim aside.

Cabrera did not address his teammates after the suspension was announced; he had privately denied the positive test to Giants players and coaches when rumors began to swirl in the weeks preceding the Aug. 15 announcement, even blaming the whispers on Dodgers fans who were attempting to cause a distraction.

It was a hard fall for Cabrera, who had emerged as a fan favorite in San Francisco. Giants fans stuffed the ballot box to make the "Melk Man" theleading vote getter among NL outfielders for the All-Star Game in July. Cabrerawas selected as the MVP of the Midsummer Classic after leading the NationalLeague to a victory that secured home-field advantage in the World Series forthe NL pennant winner. Sources tell CSNBayArea.com that Cabrera has no plans toreturn his MVP trophy, however.

Giants outfielder Gregor Blanco, one of Cabrera's best friends on the team, said the suspended outfielder was embarrassed by his positive test. Cabrera's agent, Seth Levinson, said in a statement that his client is "truly humble person, is embarrassed by his mistake and sincerely regrets letting down his teammates, the Giants organization, and the fans. Since his suspension, Melky has been adamant that he did not want the batting title award, and that he wanted to solely focus on working hard to return to baseball so he could be in a position to win that award with honor.

Cabrera, a former New York Yankees top prospect, came to theGiants in an offseason trade following a breakout 2011 season for the KansasCity Royals. He will be a free agent this winter and was looking at a contractin excess of five years and 60 million before the suspension came down. Nowagents and league officials privately speculate that Cabrera will have to provehimself somewhere on a one-year deal and return to baseballs good graces.

His request to be removed from the batting race is a firstgesture to that end.

The state of the Giants' outfield is surprisingly strong

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The state of the Giants' outfield is surprisingly strong

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have lost 13 of their last 16 games at Wrigley Field, averaging exactly three runs per game. So in many ways, Tuesday's 5-3 loss fit right in with what you've watched in recent years. 

But there was something about the performance that was still relatively new and encouraging. 

The first two runs came on an opposite-field homer from Austin Slater. The third came when Kevin Pillar yanked a Cole Hamels pitch deep into the bleachers in left, giving him 18 for the season. 

Pillar's homer was the 60th of the season by a Giants outfielder, which already far exceeds last year's total of 44. Giants outfielders, led by Pillar and Mike Yastrzemski, have 23 homers in the second half alone. They have come a long, long way from 2018, and even from the first half of this season. 

"We weren't getting a lot of production from the outfield in the early going, and you look at what we're doing now. Whoever I put out in the outfield, they're doing a great job, they're defending and doing damage with the bat," manager Bruce Bochy said over the weekend. "All that production that you need from the outfield, we're getting it now."

Bochy is getting so much from his current quartet that the Giants don't currently have room for Jaylin Davis, who has nine homers in 16 games since joining Triple-A Sacramento. For now the staff is leaning heavily on Pillar, who plays just about every inning, Yastrzemski and Slater. Alex Dickerson helped turn the season around in June, and while he has struggled since returning from an oblique injury, Dickerson's OPS as a Giant remains above 1.100. 

Ask Bochy about his outfielders, though, and it's not just the offense that stands out. After years of subpar defense in center and infielders getting time in left, the Giants have solidified their outfield defense. 

They're second in the NL with 27 outfield assists and second with 22 Defensive Runs Saved. That's 26 DRS better than last year's outfield. The defensive component gets folded into Wins Above Replacement, and that's the clearest way to show the differences year over year. 

Last year's outfield combined for .1 WAR. This year's is already at 4.0 WAR, even with a number of DFA'd players dragging down the overall numbers. In the second half, Giants outfielders have accounted for 3.8 WAR, ranking third in the Majors behind just the Yankees and Dodgers. 

"They're solid all-around players who can play the whole game," Bochy said of his current outfielders. "They're guys who have a lot of range out there and get good reads. They know how to play the game."

Johnny Cueto throws 60 pitches in rehab start, close to Giants return

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Johnny Cueto throws 60 pitches in rehab start, close to Giants return

Almost nothing can be learned from a rehabbing veteran's box score in the minor leagues. That was reinforced a couple of years ago when a Dodgers A-ball team crushed Giants ace Madison Bumgarner as he tried to get a feel for his signature cutter.

So throw out the five runs that Johnny Cueto was charged with Tuesday night in Modesto. Look only at the number "60," which is how many pitches Cueto threw in his second appearance for the San Jose Giants.

The big-league training staff had hoped to see Cueto get above 55, and he appeared to have another solid night of work as he inched closer to the majors. Cueto gave up four hits, walked one and struck out three.

His next stop will be Triple-A Sacramento for two more starts.

Cueto is lined up to pitch Monday in Sacramento, and Giants manager Bruce Bochy told reporters in Chicago that he should be back in the big leagues around Sept. 8. For over a year, Cueto has targeted the first week of September. 

The right-hander is now nearly 13 months removed from Tommy John surgery and has had no setbacks. He was coming along so smoothly that the Giants discussed taking away one of the rehab starts and getting him back early, although plenty in the organization preferred caution.

[RELATED: Yaz starring for Giants after big-league chance]

The original path was two starts for San Jose and two for Sacramento, and Cueto is halfway through the schedule that'll soon get him back with the Giants.