SAN DIEGO -- All eyes will be on Melky Cabrera when he makes his long-awaited return to AT&T Park on Tuesday night against the Giants.
It will mark Cabrera's first game in San Francisco since he was suspended last August after testing positive for a banned substance. The Dominican native was arguably the Giants' best hitter at the time of his suspension, but was forced to watch the rest of the season from afar.
Cabrera declined to speak to San Francisco reporters on his way out of town last year and essentially disappeared after receiving official word from the league on the suspension, but he'll have to face the music once and for all when the Blue Jays' mini two-game set opens Tuesday.
"I don't worry about that, it's up to the fans. It's nothing I have control of," Cabrera said when asked what type of reaction he is expecting. "I'm just going to play the game. If they decide to boo, that's fine. If they decide to cheer, that's fine with me, too. But, I'm not going to worry about that. I'm just going to focus on the game and try to help my team win."
Cabrera received a 50-game suspension for his positive test, but could have been reinstated by San Francisco during the postseason. The Giants declined to make the move and instead kept him away from a team that would go on to win the World Series with a four-game sweep of the Tigers.
The decision didn't come as a major surprise considering several Giants players went on record late in the year saying they hadn't heard from Cabrera since he left the team. The Giants wanted to avoid the distraction of adding Cabrera to the roster and instead opted to stick with the status quo.
There's no arguing with the Giants' rationale considering they went on to win it all, but even if Cabrera felt betrayed he isn't saying so, at least publicly.
"That was their decision," Cabrera said through interpreter Luis Rivera. "I was ready after I was suspended. I went down and got ready just in case they needed me. They didn't need me at the time, they won the championship and I was very happy and glad that they did it with or without me."
Cabrera is a relatively low-key individual who doesn't always enjoy the spotlight that comes with being a Major Leaguer. He's soft spoken and manager John Gibbons has even described him as being shy, so it will be interesting to see how he handles becoming the center of attention in San Francisco.
The 28-year-old Cabrera said he doesn't intend to do much in San Francisco besides hanging out in the team hotel and getting ready for the upcoming series. The series opener will be far from a relaxing experience, but Cabrera at least knows he's ready for the challenge after making a slow start to the year a thing of the past.
Since being inserted into the leadoff spot on May 11, Cabrera is batting .324 (24-for-74) with a homer, seven doubles and 10 RBIs. Cabrera's sore hamstrings continue to be a nagging problem, but it hasn't had much of an impact on his performance at the plate.
"Every day, I'm feeling a little bit better," Cabrera said. "It's going to be a long season. Every day I continue to play I've felt better and better. Games and at-bats are making a difference for me right now."
Johnson returning with revamped changeup
SAN DIEGO -- When Josh Johnson returns to the mound on Tuesday night in San Francisco, he'll come armed with a refined pitch.
Johnson, who has been out since late April with right triceps inflammation, used his time on a rehab assignment to change the grip on his changeup.
It's a pitch that Johnson has been wanting to alter for the past several years, but it wasn't until a recent conversation with roving pitching instructor Rick Langford that the work began in earnest.
"I've been trying to get speed off it for years and years," Johnson said. "You see other guys whose changeups are hard, but they have good action to it.
"Mine doesn't really have the action that you'd like that can get ground balls or get a swing and miss here and there to throw guys off a little bit, to have them respect that pitch. Hopefully, I can get it to that level where it can be a huge pitch for me."
Johnson began working on the new changeup during one his bullpen sessions at the club's Minor League complex in Dunedin, Fla. He was able to continue experimenting with it during one start with Class A Dunedin and the two he had with Triple-A Buffalo.
The changeup is still very much a work in progress, but the hope is that it has gotten to the point where he can occasionally use it during big league games. It has the ability to complement his curveball and add another secondary pitch and keep hitters off-balance at the plate.
"It has a little bit of fade and I'm OK with that," Johnson said. "It's more about the speed, killing the speed off of it. I've always had a hard time doing that, that's why I started throwing the curveball just to give guys another look at something softer instead of hard, hard, hard.
"Sometimes, my curveball was even too hard, so I was trying to slow that down, not recently, but last year I was working with it trying to slow it down and work with the different speeds."
Bautista named Blue Jays' Player of the Month
SAN DIEGO -- Jose Bautista was voted the Blue Jays' Player of the Month for May by the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Sunday afternoon.
It's the third consecutive May that Bautista brought home the club's top honor. The 10-year veteran posted a .337 average with five homers and 16 RBIs while posting a .994 OPS.
Bautista finished second in the American League with 22 walks, which helped contribute to an on-base percentage of .446. The overall production was something Bautista has grown accustomed to in May as he is now hitting .315 with a 1.040 OPS and 25 home runs during the past three Mays.
Left fielder Melky Cabrera (.319, two homers, 14 RBIs), first baseman Edwin Encarnacion (.292, six homers, 26 RBIs), designated hitter Adam Lind (.346, four homers eight RBIs) and left-hander Mark Buehrle (1-2, 4.89 ERA) also received votes.