Orioles' Cabrera Shines in Seattle
Rookie Nearing a Spot In the Starting Rotation: Orioles 7, Mariners 2
By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 19, 2004; Page D07
SEATTLE, May 18 -- As he sat around the Baltimore Orioles' clubhouse in street clothes Tuesday afternoon, waiting to make the second start of his major-league career, Daniel Cabrera hardly looked like a 22-year-old who would be pitching for his roster spot a few hours later. He helped himself to a cup of soft-serve ice cream -- the kind of stuff you have to go up the road to the convenience store to get in Class AA towns. Then he helped himself to another.
His 6-foot-7, 230-pound frame suitably fortified, Cabrera set about licking the Seattle Mariners and wrapping a few more extra-long fingers around the rotation spot the Orioles are dangling in front of him.
Five days after shutting out the Chicago White Sox for six innings in a very auspicious major-league debut, Cabrera was only slightly less effective Tuesday night in the Orioles' 7-2 win over the Mariners in front of 29,819 at Safeco Field.
He lasted 62/3 innings this time, while besting Mariners all-star right-hander Freddy Garcia. Cabrera's pitching line was sullied only by solo homers by Raul Ibanez in the second inning and Bret Boone in the sixth, and he now owns two of the Orioles' three "quality" starts (at least six innings pitched with three or fewer runs allowed) since May 4.
"Tonight was not a make or break decision," said Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli. "But it kind of reinforced something. He's gone out there with poise."
Third baseman Melvin Mora had three hits to raise his league-leading batting average to .377, and left fielder Larry Bigbie homered and drove in three runs, as the Orioles (19-16) spent their 33rd day in a row above .500.
Even more encouraging for the Orioles is the increasingly prevalent feeling that they have uncovered a gem of a pitcher in their midst.
Although the Orioles' brass was careful not to put too much pressure on Cabrera by making this an all-or-nothing proposition, it was clear he could have gone a long way towards securing a spot in the Orioles' rotation with a second straight lock-down performance.
Relying heavily again upon a two-seamed fastball that hovered around 92-93 miles per hour, Cabrera (2-0) consistently avoided serious trouble. With runners on base, he held the Mariners' veteran lineup -- the nine members of which owned a combined 73 years of big-league experience -- hitless in seven at-bats.
"I don't see a scared kid at all," said Orioles right fielder Jay Gibbons. "I see a guy who looks like he's been up here for 10 years."
Despite Boone's leadoff homer in the sixth, Mazzilli let Cabrera finish the inning and start the seventh. Cabrera's 97th pitch of the night was a 94-mph fastball that Mariners center fielder Randy Winn whiffed at for the second out of the inning.
"He doesn't show any kind of fear," said catcher Javy Lopez. "He looked pretty mature out there."
Garcia, whose marketability and free-agent-to-be status on a last-place team has made him the subject of rampant trade rumors, needed 74 pitches to labor through the first three innings, while the Orioles made the Mariners pay for some indifferent outfield defense.
The Orioles scored a run in the first on Miguel Tejada's RBI double over the head of center fielder Randy Winn, and two more in the second on three singles, an RBI groundout and some poor fundamentals by the Mariners.
The two-run second inning hinged upon Luis Matos's single to right with nobody out. Jay Gibbons, on first at the time following an infield single, rounded second and headed to third, brazenly testing the arm of Ichiro Suzuki, the Mariners' Gold Glove right fielder. Not only did Gibbons beat the throw easily, but Matos moved to second when none of the Mariners infielders cut it off.
That was significant because the next batter, Bigbie, grounded to second -- which might have been a double-play instead of an RBI had Matos not been able to advance to second on Suzuki's throw. Three batters later, Mora singled to center with two outs to score Matos.
Mora's single would be the Orioles' last hit until the sixth, as Garcia retired 13 of the next 14 batters.
But with two outs in the sixth, Matos slapped a double into the right field corner, and Bigbie followed by blasting a 2-1 fastball into the seats in right-center for a two-run homer.
Orioles Notes: After discussing several scenarios, the Orioles have decided to give right-hander Rodrigo Lopez his first start of the season here on Thursday night.
Lopez, who built a sterling 0.33 ERA in the Orioles' bullpen over the first six weeks of the season, will be facing veteran lefty Jamie Moyer, whom the Mariners moved up because of his 14-2 career record and 3.11 ERA against the Orioles.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company