Alfonzo serves drug suspension, gets recalled by Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants recalled former backup catcher Eliezer Alfonzo from Triple-A Fresno on Tuesday, nine days after he completed a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

Alfonzo arrived fit, healthy and ready for a clean slate, insisting he never knowingly took steroids but did take medicine in December while home in Venezuela for bronchitis.

"It's just like my career is starting over again," Alfonzo said upon arriving at the ballpark. "Whatever happened happened. It was a mistake I made and I already talked about the situation. Everything is in the past and I will keep my head up. now I feel 100 percent mentally and physically."

He was the first player penalized this year under Major League Baseball's drug program. Alfonzo was batting .316 (25-for-79) with five home runs and 19 RBIS, five doubles and a triple in 20 games for the Grizzlies this year. He was out from April 30 to June 22 and spent his suspension in Fresno working out and lost 15 pounds.

Alfonzo said he spent a month trying to prove that he didn't knowingly take an illegal performance enhancer.

"I didn't do anything and if I did it, I did it without knowing what was going on," he said. "I was sick and took something and maybe that's where the substance came from."

The Giants optioned reserve catcher Steve Holm to Fresno, which was playing in Tucson, Ariz. In addition, the Giants optioned right-handed reliever Billy Sadler to Fresno and brought up right-hander Osiris Matos from Double-A Connecticut. Reliever Vinnie Chulk, designated for assignment last week, cleared waivers and was sent outright to Fresno.

Neither Alfonzo nor Guillermo Rodriguez had strong spring training performances, leaving the Giants in a tough position finding someone to back up starter Bengie Molina. The 29-year-old Alfonzo missed most of last season following knee surgery after making the opening day roster for the first time in his career.

Alfonzo will be used to provide offense off the bench and spell Molina when he needs a break.

"Alfonzo's been catching well down there," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's earned this. He made a mistake. He paid for it. He served his suspension and I'm sure he learned from it."

Alfonzo was injured in a collision at the plate on June 8, had arthroscopic surgery June 19 and didn't play again until Sept 4. In 2006, Alfonzo finally reached the big leagues after more than a decade in the minors when Mike Matheny was forced to go on the disabled list and ultimately retire because of a concussion.

When his suspension was announced, he immediately issued a public apology.

"I made a mistake, and I want to apologize to my family, my teammates, the fans and the Giants organization," Alfonzo said in a statement released by the club. "I know what I did was wrong, and now I will pay the penalty. As a father, I now have to look my children in the eye and explain to them that I have made a big mistake, one, unfortunately, that they are also going to have to deal with, as well as me."

He played 113 games with the Giants in 2006 and 2007, batting .263 with 13 homers and 45 RBIs.

The Giants said in a statement they also were disappointed to learn about the positive test and that they support baseball's testing program. Alfonzo became the first Giants player to be suspended under the major league drug program that first started suspensions in 2004.

The 28-year-old Holm, who played in Double-A last year, batted .214 with one home run and five RBIs in 38 game for the Giants.