GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — Cleveland Indians outfielder Abraham Almonte accepted responsibility Saturday for the failed drug test that got him suspended 80 games, but said he didn’t know how an illegal substance got into his body.
“As a grown man, I’m taking all the responsibility for whatever was found in my body,” Almonte said, a day after his penalty was announced by Major League Baseball. “I’m just trying to think and figure out what it is. For now, I don’t really have any idea where it came from.”
The 26-year-old outfielder said he was surprised to hear the news from MLB, and that it was difficult to address the suspension in front of his teammates.
When manager Terry Francona sat down to talk about Almonte’s suspension, his tone was as somber as his expression.
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“When we get on the field, this won’t slow us down,” Francona said. “We’ll figure it out. it will not be an excuse.”
Almonte, who hit .264 with five home runs and 20 RBIs last season, was set to get significant time in the outfield this season. He could have competed for a starting spot in the outfield with All-Star Michael Brantley is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.
While he will spend his time away from the team preparing for the second half of the season, Almonte said he’ll be rooting his teammates on from afar.
“My responsibility now is to work as hard as I can to get ready and help my team whenever they need me back,” Almonte said. “I hope this distraction doesn’t hurt the team and one of the most important things right now for me is that the team keeps doing what they’re supposed to do.”
Francona said he was as shocked as Almonte upon hearing the news and spoke at length with the outfielder about the positive test.
In those meetings, Francona confirmed that he and the Indians would be supportive of the outfielder and be alongside him as he works through this “sobering” situation.
“Your team’s a little bit like a family and things don’t always go the way they’re supposed to and people make mistakes,” Francona said. “Through thick and thin, through good and bad, we’ll try to be there for him as much as we can.”
Though Francona feels that the Indians now have another hole in the outfield that wasn’t there previously, he doesn’t think that the team needs to look externally to find a potential replacement for Almonte.
“I would say though that I’m completely comfortable with the guys that are in our camp,” Francona said, adding that he isn’t pushing Indians president Chris Antonetti to make any moves.
Almonte will continue to take part in Cleveland’s spring training but his routine will change.
Rather than participate in games and do baseball activities during spring workouts, he’ll focus on agility and conditioning work to leave the at-bats for those competing for the opening day outfield spots.
NOTES: Free agent infielder Juan Uribe was at the team’s complex going through a physical exam, the final step before an agreed upon one-year contract will be finalized. … Francona said top prospects Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier, outfielders who were both first-round draft picks, won’t be in competition for a spot in Cleveland’s opening day outfield. Francona said it would be unfair to the players to be put into that situation this early in their development. The 23-year-old Zimmer, a first-round pick by the Indians in 2014, has only reached the Double-A level, where he played 49 games last season. The 21-year-old Frazier, a 2013 first-round pick, still hasn’t played about Class A.