At expense of Yanks, Cabrera finally cashes in

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Righty gets first win of '05, earns praise from Mazzilli

Notebook

April 18, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera maintained that other than spotting his fastball a little better, he was virtually the same pitcher yesterday that he was when he gave up nine earned runs in his first two starts this season.

Manager Lee Mazzilli didn't agree. After his team's 8-4 win over the New York Yankees to complete the Orioles' first sweep of their rivals since 2000, Mazzilli praised Cabrera for just "throwing," rather than trying to make the perfect pitch.

Though clearly without his best stuff, Cabrera, a wiry, 6-foot-7 right-hander, went six innings, allowed eight hits and three earned runs, struck out three and walked two in picking up his first victory of the 2005 season.

"In his first two outings, he was different than what he was [today]," Mazzilli said. "He threw the ball, he got ahead. We gave him some run support and a little leeway, and he wasn't trying to make that perfect pitch every pitch. ... At times, what got him in trouble was he was trying to spot it, just turn the ball over rather than having that natural sink that he has."

Cabrera's performance hardly matched his dominance in the Grapefruit League, where he went 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in five spring starts. He also wasn't as commanding as he was at times last season when he burst onto the scene after being recalled in May from Double-A Bowie and won 12 games en route to finishing third in American League Rookie of the Year balloting.

But, after giving up a combined 13 hits in his first two starts - a loss and a no-decision - while failing to reach the sixth inning, Cabrera showed positive signs nonetheless.

"I located my fastball, located my breaking ball and located my change," Cabrera said. "I had the same stuff today, only this time it worked better."

This time, he also had more margin for error. He had a 6-0 lead by the time he took the mound for the top of the third inning. He appeared to hit a wall in the sixth, allowing three straight hits - including Ruben Sierra's two-run homer - but he settled down and got three straight outs to keep the Orioles ahead 6-3. That was his last inning.

"I did my job, and my teammates won the game for me," Cabrera said.

Palmeiro staying patient

Orioles first baseman-designated hitter Rafael Palmeiro put himself through an extensive offseason workout regimen with the hope of getting stronger and being fresher for the whole season. Now, he is just waiting for the results.

Entering yesterday's game, Palmeiro was 2 for his past 18, and his batting average had fallen to .216. He didn't have an extra-base hit until he slammed a pitch from Kevin Brown for a ground-rule double in the first inning yesterday. He also got an RBI on a bases-loaded walk in the seventh after Yankees manager Joe Torre ordered an intentional pass of Sammy Sosa and brought in Mike Stanton.

"I am a little disappointed that I haven't gotten the results, but at least I feel good about what I did [in the offseason]," said Palmeiro, whose double was hit number 2,931, passing Rogers Hornsby and moving him into 31st place on baseball's all-time hits list. "I've done what I can. I know I'll have results. There's no doubt in my mind."

Last season, Palmeiro's batting average dropped to a season-low .242 on July 7, but he hit .306 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs in his final 29 games. Both he and Mazzilli expect Palmeiro to find that groove soon.

"Once everything is in place, I'll drive the ball," Palmeiro said. "It will come in spurts like it did last year. Hopefully, the spurts will come soon."

Said Mazzilli: "With Raffy, it comes in streaks. He can hit five [homers] in a week."

Mazzilli makes changes

Mazzilli used Sosa as the designated hitter yesterday and gave Jay Gibbons his first start in right field.

It was Sosa's first appearance in that role as an Oriole. The last time Sosa was used as a designated hitter was June 27 last year. Gibbons, who had two hits Saturday but went 0-for-3 yesterday, made nine previous starts this season at either first base or DH.

"I want to keep [Gibbons'] bat in the lineup and get him going - keep him on a roll," Mazzilli said.

Catcher Javy Lopez and center fielder Luis Matos also were not in the lineup, as Geronimo Gil and David Newhan got starts in their places. Matos and B.J. Surhoff entered the game as defensive replacements in the seventh inning.

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