Mark McGwire’s first day on the job as the Cardinals’ hitting coach ended with another apology for steroid use.
He spent time yesterday in the batting cage with hitters, sat in on a lengthy staff meeting, and then answered questions from reporters for more than 15 minutes. He left more than six hours later, but not before signing several autographs.
The 46-year-old McGwire seemed at ease in his first extended media availability since admitting a month ago that he used steroids and human growth hormone during his remarkable home run power surge in the 1990s. Echoing remarks he made in January, several times he asked for forgiveness as he seeks to rehabilitate a tarnished image.
“It’s something I regret,’’ McGwire said. “I can’t say I’m sorry enough to everybody in baseball and across America, and whoever watches this great game.
“I think people understand how truly sorry I was for what I did.’’
McGwire refused to back off his assertion, much criticized, that steroids allowed him to recover from injuries and stay on the field, but didn’t help him break Roger Maris’s home run record in 1998. McGwire said it was the evolution of his swing and not a body enhanced by drugs that enabled him to hit 70 homers that year, smashing Maris’s 37-year-old record of 61, and hit 65 more in 1999.
“Like I’ve said, people are going to have their opinions,’’ McGwire said. “Listen, it got me the opportunity to get out there and get more at-bats, and I got the chance to play.’’
Still, he said, he felt he owed it to the Maris family to call them before his steroids admission became public, saying it was the “right thing to do.’’ He said Pat Maris, Roger Maris’s widow, was “upset and disappointed.’’
Answering critics who accused him of stopping short of full disclosure last month, McGwire countered that he “spoke from my heart.’’ He expressed no regrets from his many interviews and said more than once that he hopes the issue will die down soon.
“It took a lot to do what I did,’’ McGwire said. “I spoke the truth. Let’s move on and turn this into a really positive thing.’’
The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner reached a preliminary agreement last Friday, and the sides have completed the deal, team spokesman Jim Moorehead said. Lincecum gets a $2 million signing bonus, half payable March 15 with the rest due March 15, 2011. He receives salaries of $8 million this year, $13 million in 2011, and the chance to earn performance and award bonuses. He made $650,000 last year.
Already a two-time All-Star, Lincecum is 40-17 with a 2.90 ERA with 676 strikeouts in three big league seasons. He won 18 games in his first Cy Young season of 2008, then 15 to win again last season after leading the league with 261 strikeouts and tying for top marks in the NL with four complete games and two shutouts.