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Jay Gibbons, 'embarrassed' by the Mitchell Report, gets a second chance with Dodgers

August 9, 2010 |  7:43 am
Jay Gibbons figured it was over. A bright baseball career done at age 30. So he went home to Thousand Oaks and retired.

Nobody seemed to want him. His last season for the Orioles in 2007 was easily his worst. And then there was being named in the Mitchell Report for using performance-enhancing drugs.

The Orioles released him.

"I sort of saw the writing on the wall," Gibbons said. "You just get that feeling, a little bit left out. For whatever reason, they decided to move on.

"I respected their decision. I thought I would land somewhere else fairly quickly. And it never happened."

There were stints with a couple of independent-league teams. A minor-league gig with Milwaukee in 2008. An invitation to the Marlins camp in 2009. Nothing stuck.

Finally, he went home and decided his run was over. He called himself retired.

"I went home and sat for four or five months, then finally I turned on a playoff game," he said. "And right when I turned it on, I knew immediately I had to try again."

He was only 32, but seemed blacklisted due to the Mitchell Report.

"I like to say it’s because I hit .230 in 2007 and got hurt, had shoulder surgery," he said. "[The Mitchell Report] didn’t help, but if I’d hit .330, I think I would have had a job the next year. It’s all about performance. And then playing bad compounded with the controversy."

There wasn’t any pretending the Mitchell Report didn’t exist.

"I was embarrassed," he said. "It was just a tough time in my life. Something you wish you could take back in your life, but you can’t. I had a lot of support with my family and friends. I dealt with it and moved on. It’s been a while now."

Then, in the past offseason, the Dodgers called and offered him an opportunity to play for the triple-A team in Albuquerque. Not even an invitation to camp as a non-roster invitee, but simply to minor-league camp.

He jumped at it. And after playing four months without any guarantees, after lighting it up in Albuquerque batting .347 with 19 home runs and 83 RBI, he was finally called up to the Dodgers on Sunday.

"It’s been a long journey; it’s been three years," he said. "This is really the first year where I’ve been playing again. I had two years off, really not playing professional baseball. I’m just happy the Dodgers gave me the opportunity to go play in the minor leagues and give me a chance to show what I could do."

In his first at-bat as a left-handed pinch-hitter Sunday, he singled in a run.

Now 33, it was a new beginning. The Mitchell Report was now 3 years old.

"He wasn’t the only name in the Mitchell Report," said Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti. "How many names were in the Mitchell Report? A lot of people made decisions that they perhaps would go back and change today. Probably no different than any of us. Forgiveness is part of the fabric of this country.

"He only came to the minor-league camp, and didn’t ask for any special privilege; he didn’t ask if he would be able to play in the big leagues this year, do I get an out in my contract, nothing. He said I’ve made mistakes, and I need to rectify it. I want to come and I want to play, all I want to do is that.’’

-- Steve Dilbeck