Cabrera getting into the swing of things
Right-hander notches rare single against Braves on day of start
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Last month, Nationals right-hander Daniel Cabrera decided not to participate in the World Baseball Classic because he is playing in the National League for the first time, and he wants to learn how to bunt and swing the bat and receive tips from pitching coach Randy St. Claire.
It appears Cabrera is getting the hang of swinging the bat. On Thursday afternoon, Cabrera went 1-for-1 with a run scored in a 6-2 loss to the Braves.
During his five-year career in the big leagues, Cabrera is 0-for-14 with 14 strikeouts. But one wouldn't have known that when Cabrera faced right-hander Jair Jurrjens in the third inning. Cabrera was looking to bunt, but he swung at a fastball on the outside part of the plate and singled to right field.
"It felt good to have the base hit," a happy Cabrera said. "It's the first time in my life. I'm starting off good [in the NL]. I'm 1-for-1 on this side."
In the same inning, Cabrera was on second base when Ryan Zimmerman doubled to right-center field. Cabrera ran awkwardly as he was rounding third base. He was halfway home when Lastings Milledge, who was on first, nearly caught up to Cabrera as both players scored. Cabrera didn't realize that Milledge was that close to him until reporters told Cabrera after the game.
"When I got to first base, I was excited -- you want to score," Cabrera said. "Next time, I'm going to be real quick [running the bases]."
Said manager Manny Acta: "[Running the bases was] another thing that was important for us in camp -- to get him to slide. He still has a way to go sliding into the bases. It's something he has to get better at, because it's the National League and he is going to be on the bases a couple of times, I'm assuming, this year."
According to Acta, several members of the coaching staff -- from Marquis Grissom to Tim Foli -- are teaching Cabrera how to bunt, hit and run the bases.
"It has been a team effort -- so far, whoever is teaching him how to hit is ahead [of the game]," Acta said.
As far as his work on the mound is concerned, Cabrera went 3 2/3 innings and gave up two runs on four hits. He breezed through the first three innings, but had trouble in the fourth.
Braves right fielder Jordan Schafer led off with a double. He then stole third and scored on groundout by Yunel Escobar. After Casey Kotchman grounded out, Omar Infante singled to right field before Martin Prado walked to put runners on first and second.
Acta then took Cabrera out of the game after the right-hander had thrown 63 pitches. Cabrera was charged with another run when reliever Jason Bergmann gave up an RBI single to Brandon Jones.
"[Cabrera] threw the ball well today," Acta said. "We liked what we saw. He threw some good breaking balls. He is making strides. It's going to be a process. Pitchers just don't change mechanics or their mind-set from one day to the next. He has to get used to Randy and buy in what Randy is teaching him. I think Daniel is buying into it. He has made progress from start one to this one."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.