Cabrera eyeing breakthrough
Orioles right-hander finally feeling comfortable with changeup
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It didn't come across as a masterpiece, but to Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera, Sunday marked another notch in what he refers to as his best Spring Training yet.
His results against the Twins, in which the 6-foot-9 right-hander surrendered five hits and three runs, one earned, before being pulled with one out in the fifth inning look somewhat messy, but what Cabrera is most pleased with is how he feels.
"This is my best game of Spring Training," said Cabrera, who walked four and struck out three. "Don't look at the errors and the runs. I am feeling strong and everything is working -- and I am happy with making the right pitch in situations, making good pitches with one out [and] with runners on base."
Cabrera fell victim -- and victimized himself -- when he allowed one run in the first inning as a result of a his own throwing error and another by Scott Moore at third base. But disguised within the trouble was the fact Cabrera forced six of the seven batters he faced in the inning -- one walked -- to hit the ball on the ground.
"The [changeup] is working good," Cabrera said, "and it helps a lot when the batters are expecting [the] fastball [that] you throw the changeup and breaking ball. It helped when the bases were loaded and you could throw the changeup. That's very good."
Cabrera said that he has been working diligently over the past four springs to perfect the changeup, and he even spent last winter playing in the Dominican Winter League to improve upon it.
"The last four Spring Trainings, I worked real hard on getting the changeup but never got it," Cabrera said. "Now, I feel strong and I feel I've got it. I feel very strong about it. That makes a difference."
Over the winter, Cabrera demonstrated how unhittable he is when he keeps the ball over the plate. Part of doing that depends on him being able to keep batters off-balance with the breaking ball. Cabrera feels his changeup is where he wants it, so he can do just that.
"I'm feeling the strongest I've felt all spring," Cabrera said. "I'm ready to roll."
Besides the fielding errors, Orioles manager Dave Trembley was enthused with his pitcher's performance, notably the use of the changeup and the response to runners on base.
"From what we've seen in the past, in these situations, the wheels would have come off the wagon," Trembley said. "But he pitched well enough where he didn't let that happen. From that standpoint, I'm encouraged."
Cabrera managed to recover from a bases-loaded situation in the first and fifth inning and allowed only three total runs where it appeared like the Twins might manufacture even more. But the tall righty got out of the first inning by inducing a groundout to Brian Buscher. By the fifth inning, it appeared Cabrera had begun to tire, as he allowed two runs -- the second one coming on a bases-loaded walk before he was relieved by Dennis Sarfate.
"That was more a case of [Cabrera] not pitching in seven days due to an off-day and a rainout," Trembley said. "Other than that -- and the fielding and throwing errors -- he did very well."
Trembley believes Cabrera has made significant strides in the use of the secondary pitches.
"It's not going to happen overnight, but he's pitching with a lot more confidence and it's beginning to show," Trembley said. "His secondary pitches were good, and he only had three hard-hit balls against him. He's been receptive to what [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] is trying to get him to do."
Cabrera now has a 3.12 ERA with 14 strikeouts and 12 walks in 17 1/3 innings over five starts this spring.
Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.