Nationals Notebook

Cabrera Singles in Only At-Bat, Feels 'Sharper' on Mound for Nats

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 13, 2009

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., March 12 -- During his five years with the Baltimore Orioles, Daniel Cabrera had 14 official at-bats. He struck out 14 times. So while the important portion of Cabrera's Thursday concerned what he did on the mound -- 3 2/3 innings in which he allowed two runs in the Washington Nationals' 6-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves -- the amusing part came when he grabbed a bat and somehow made it connect with a pitched ball.

"I'm 1 for 1 on this side," Cabrera said, smiling broadly. "It's a good start."

Cabrera's contact resulted in a third-inning single against Braves right-hander Jair Jurrjens. Combined with his unusually awkward stumble to first base -- his 6-foot-9 frame seemingly gangling in dozens of directions -- the event sent the Nationals' dugout into near hysterics.

The important part, though, was the pitching. And though his line wasn't pretty, Cabrera said his pitches were "sharper" than in his first two outings.

"I feel better than my last two starts," he said. Indeed, Cabrera faced only 10 batters through three innings, but may have tired toward the end of his 63-pitch outing. He allowed two hits and his only walk in the fourth.

Manager Manny Acta said Cabrera is still working through some mechanical issues with pitching coach Randy St. Claire, and he expects that once he smooths things out, his velocity should climb from the 92-mph fastballs he threw Thursday.

"It's going to be a process," Acta said. "Pitchers just don't change mechanics or mind-sets from one day to the next."

Proving Ground

Acta said newly acquired pitcher Kip Wells, signed Wednesday to a non-guaranteed minor league deal, will work out on the minor league side of the Nationals' complex and have to prove himself there before he pitches in a major league situation. The veteran of 10 major league seasons will be looked at as a reliever, Acta said.

Wells said he preferred to work as a starter. He understands, though, with an ERA of 5.32 since 2004, that he must prove himself again. . . . Center fielder Lastings Milledge went 2 for 4, and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman drove in the Nationals' only runs with a hard two-run double driven to the opposite field.

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