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Cabrera, Orioles' Workhorse, Stumbles Out of Gate

Athletics 9, Orioles 0

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 7, 2005; Page D01

BALTIMORE, April 6 -- The night already had turned sour for Daniel Cabrera by the time he entered the dugout after the second inning of an anticipated debut that had gone horribly wrong. Baltimore Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller awaited Cabrera near the steps of the dugout. Once Cabrera was inside, the old coach, who had been the pitcher's biggest supporter this spring, clutched his prodigy's arms and launched into a tutorial. Miller swung his arms and then looked into Cabrera's eyes and asked the young pitcher to look back. Cabrera listened and nodded.

"You have to blow that off," Miller told Cabrera. "You can't take away what happened."


Daniel Cabrera, the Orioles' No. 2 starter, was overwhelmed by the Athletics, yielding five runs in the second inning. (Joe Giza -- Reuters)

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The Orioles had not expected Cabrera to fail so badly in his first outing of the season, a 9-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Cabrera, thrust into the number two spot in the rotation, yielded six hits and five runs in 3 1/3 innings and mostly was unimpressive, except for a fastball that topped out at 97 mph.

"It seemed like he was out of sync," Baltimore Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "Seemed like he was a little bit unraveled. I don't know why. At times it seemed like he was aiming a little bit."

It was an outing that won't alleviate concerns about the state of the Orioles' starting rotation. It was an outing that was as unremarkable as Cabrera's final outing of the 2004 season, when he yielded six runs, five hits and three walks in a loss to the Boston Red Sox on Oct. 2. At that point he was still considered part of the bottom half of the rotation. He was a novice.

Now as the team's number two starter, those types of outings aren't acceptable if the Orioles hope to compete for a playoff spot. Cabrera has been put in a position where growth must come quickly.

"I think the people just hit me, home run, base hit, everything," Cabrera said. "Sometimes you have a good game. Sometimes you have a bad game."

Perhaps it was unfair all along to expect a dazzling debut from Cabrera, who started last season with Class AA Bowie but ascended to the majors and into the Orioles' starting rotation. He had created such lofty expectations with an inspiring spring, when he led Baltimore starters with a 1.64 ERA. Scouts considered him one of the most impressive pitchers they saw all spring.

He had command and poise, both of which abandoned him in a five-run second inning. Cabrera hit a batter and walked another in the inning and allowed a two-run home run to Eric Chavez.

Two batters later, Cabrera struck Scott Hatteberg on the right shoulder with a fastball. Hatteberg, as he walked to first base, shouted at Cabrera.

The young pitcher simply glared back. The umpire warned both benches. Cabrera seemingly had completely lost control.

"I've got no problems getting hit," Hatteberg said. "It was pointless. In my estimation it was on purpose."

Cabrera declined to talk about the pitch. His disappointing outing ended in the fourth after he yielded a single to Mark Kotsay. He was replaced by John Parrish.

The Orioles appeared to have caught a break when Oakland's number two starter, Rich Harden, considered perhaps the best young pitcher in baseball by many, was scratched because of a blister on his pitching hand. In his place was Kirk Saarloos, a lightly regarded soft tosser, who allowed just one hit in six innings. The Orioles swung past his change-up, looked past his slider and were late on his 87-mph fastball. The biggest problem was that nobody knew much about Saarloos. The Orioles lineup had a combined 16 at-bats against him.

"We didn't have a lot of time to get video on the guy," left fielder Larry Bigbie said. "We didn't have anything on him. No film."

Perhaps the Orioles never really had a chance anyway after Cabrera's failed start. After being taken out of the game in the fourth, Mazzilli offered a few words of consolation for Cabrera.

"You're a good pitcher and this happens," Mazzilli told Cabrera. "Sometimes, you have to go through that."


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