Raul Gonzalez, a former major league outfielder, has been named as the companion for Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera in the program established by Major League Baseball and the players’ union to treat his alcohol addiction issues, FOXSports.com learned Wednesday.
The Tigers confirmed Gonzalez’s appointment but offered few specifics, citing health privacy laws.
Dave Dombrowski, the team president and general manager, said Gonzalez was recommended by Cabrera’s agents at SFX Baseball, Fernando Cuza and Diego Bentz.
“They knew him, and knew him well, and thought he would be a good person,” Dombrowski said. “They wanted us to meet him. Miguel had never met him until that took place.
“I’ve heard a lot of good things about him throughout his career, as far as a person. When I met him, I was very impressed. He’s a quality individual.”
Gonzalez, 37, is the sole companion for Cabrera under the program and will be with him “all year long,” Dombrowski said. Gonzalez can’t be in uniform during games but will assist the team with on-field pregame workouts.
Gonzalez appeared in 168 big-league games between 2000 and 2004, most notably for the New York Mets in 2003. Including his long minor-league career, Gonzalez played more than 2,000 professional games over 20 seasons.
Cabrera, hitting .174 this spring, wouldn’t discuss his relationship with Gonzalez during a Wednesday interview. When asked about that and other off-the-field matters, Cabrera simply replied, “Next question.” MLB said in a statement issued last month that Cabrera is “fully committed” to the treatment program established for him.
Tigers officials declined a request to interview Gonzalez, citing the confidential nature of Cabrera’s treatment program, which was established following Cabrera’s arrest last month on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and resisting an officer.
Gonzalez was at Cabrera’s side on Wednesday, before and after the Tigers’ 5-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Joker Marchant Stadium. He began working with Cabrera in the last several days — and discreetly so, sources said.
Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta played with Gonzalez in the minor leagues seven years ago and recognized him when he arrived at the Tigers’ clubhouse. But Peralta hadn’t been told about Gonzalez’s specific function with the team.
“Good player, good guy,” Peralta said. “Intelligent guy. He has a lot of experience. He had the respect (of his teammates). When I played with him, he was never in trouble. He was always at the field. A good father and family guy.”
Gonzalez was still an active player as recently as last season, for Campeche and Nuevo Laredo of the Mexican League. A native of Puerto Rico, Gonzalez had planned on playing in Mexico again this year before being asked to work with Cabrera, one source said.
Dombrowski declined to say whether MLB, the union, the team, or Cabrera himself would be responsible for paying Gonzalez’s salary.