Cabrera hits the spot with `all-fastball' plan

Old strategy produces effective outing Saturday vs. Rays

Notebook

April 14, 2008|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Orioles manager Dave Trembley said in the days before Daniel Cabrera's start that the pitcher might show something new. As it turned out, Cabrera had his best outing of the year Saturday by using a game plan that has brought him success in the past.

Cabrera has been working on throwing a slider rather than a curveball, but in the Orioles' 3-2 victory, he threw fastballs on all but a handful of his 107 pitches, according to catcher Ramon Hernandez. It worked, with Cabrera allowing only one earned run over 6 2/3 innings.

"He was all fastball," said Hernandez, who added that Cabrera threw one slider, three changeups and a couple of curveballs. "He was really locating that fastball well. That's why he got a lot of ground balls early."

Trembley said pitching coach Rick Kranitz spoke to Cabrera before the game and urged him to rely on his fastball, specifically his two-seamer, which has more movement and induces more grounders.

"He didn't try to nibble with his fastball," Trembley said. "We just told him, `Just throw your fastball for strikes, pitch inside with it and when you have to, elevate it.' "

Trembley said he also was pleased with the results when Cabrera threw his off-speed pitches.

"With him, it's getting his hand on top of the ball," Trembley said. "Whatever you want to call it - a curveball, a slider or a slurve. At least the action on it is down. It gives the hitters another look because it changes planes and it changes eye levels. That thing he was throwing before ... went right into people's wheelhouses, especially left-handed hitters."

Markakis plays on

A day after getting hit by a fastball from J.P. Howell in the eighth inning, Nick Markakis had his left wrist wrapped but remained in the lineup. In the Orioles' 6-2 loss, Markakis went 1-for-3 with a home run, his first of the season, and a run-scoring walk.

However, he said he felt discomfort from his left thumb, which he jammed earlier in the series during a headfirst slide into second base.

"It was bothering me a little bit," he said. "It definitely wasn't comfortable. I just tried to change my grip on the bat a little bit to try to make it as comfortable as possible."

Markakis said his wrist felt fine, though getting hit certainly put a scare into him.

"At first, I thought it was broken because it went completely numb," he said.

Still confident in Walker

Reliever Jamie Walker was unavailable yesterday because he had pitched in three straight games. Trembley said he hasn't lost confidence in the left-hander, who surrendered late game-tying home runs to Carlos Pena in consecutive games.

"I think it's isolated. I think that's just baseball," Trembley said. "Nobody said anything when [Pena] was 0-for-5 against him. Now, he has two home runs against him. The guy has just been a very difficult out for us, last year and this year."

No change in game plan

When Trembley met with Matt Albers to inform him he would start tonight's series opener with the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards, the manager reminded him not to treat the opportunity as a tryout. Whether Albers pitches well or not in his first start of the season, he will still have an important role on the club.

"I'm just going to try to focus on going after hitters on Toronto," said Albers, who hasn't given up a run in three relief appearances spanning 6 1/3 innings. "I'm going to try not to look at the big picture. Obviously, I want to do well. It's probably just a spot start and I'll be back in the bullpen. It's kind of no pressure in that sense."

It's not as if this is anything new for Albers, who made 18 starts for the Houston Astros last season.

"Obviously, as a starting pitcher, you want to get quick outs," he said. "That's the same thing I've been trying to do in the bullpen: get contact early, get guys swinging and hopefully eat up some innings."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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