FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.-- --Daniel Cabrera is understandably frustrated, though apparently not with his consistently inconsistent performance on the mound.
He is frustrated with the media for constantly asking the same questions about his consistently inconsistent performance on the mound.
Guilty, as charged.
It's hard to ask new questions when it's always the same old story. Cabrera walked five guys in his most recent performance and further distanced himself from the impressive exhibition debut that fooled some of us into thinking he actually had figured something out since last year.
Once again, I plead guilty.
Nobody has spent more time than me coming up with optimistic scenarios, delusional comparisons and tortured rationalizations to justify the Orioles' continuing attempt to tap the vast reservoir of raw talent that is Daniel "The Human High Pitch Count" Cabrera.
I admit it. I was mesmerized by the 6-foot-9 frame and the looming presence on the mound. Every time I looked at Cabrera, I saw a Randy Johnson in the rough. Every time I heard somebody say he would never amount to anything more than a fourth-class starter on a fourth-place team, I chuckled arrogantly to myself and waited for the moment when I could say, "I told you so."
Then I went to Jupiter on Tuesday and watched him trip over his own feet - both literally and figuratively - on the way to an on-field and off-field performance that pretty much convinced me that he doesn't get it and probably never will.
Now, I feel like I've been seduced and abandoned.
The guy would be lights-out if the light ever went on, but how much longer can the Orioles wait for that to happen?
Manager Dave Trembley continues to say all the right things about Cabrera's work ethic, and new pitching coach Rick Kranitz is searching hard for the mechanical fix that will allow Cabrera to make good on all that unrealized promise. But I can't help wondering whether both of them are thinking the same thing I am, which is this:
"How in the wide, wide world of sports could this guy be making nearly $3 million this year and be the highest-paid pitcher in the Orioles' starting rotation?"
Cabrera ascended to that lofty perch when the Orioles traded Erik Bedard to the Seattle Mariners. Cabrera is the economic ace of the staff - at least until Steve Trachsel officially makes the club - which illustrates the strange state of baseball's salary structure, especially after outfielder Nick Markakis got renewed at $455,000 after a breakout season.
Maybe Cabrera is feeling pressure to replace Bedard, because he certainly was acting like him after Tuesday's performance. He was difficult and sarcastic, chiding reporters he has known for years for their inability to come up with new and original ways to ask him why there are so many times he couldn't find the strike zone with a Garmin.
(I know nobody cares whether a player gets along with the media. Normally, I wouldn't care either, but his salty attitude this spring is just another sign of his inability to address the real issues affecting his performance.)
The Orioles don't have much choice but to let the spring play itself out and hope something clicks between Cabrera and Kranitz. They need the 200-plus innings Cabrera figures to throw this season, and they wouldn't get much in trade for a guy who led the major leagues with 18 losses last year.
For lack of a better way to say it, Cabrera is what he is - the kind of player who teases you with his talent and tortures you with his untappable potential.
Former Orioles pitching coach Dick Bosman used to look at young pitchers like Cabrera and shake his head.
"That's the kind of pitcher who gets you fired," he would say.
Kranitz is in no danger. He's brand-new here, and Cabrera's act has already gotten old.
It just took some of us awhile to realize it.
Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon most Saturdays and Sundays.