Just more than two weeks into his tenure with the Nationals, Asdrubal Cabrera believes he has a good handle on all of his new teammates’ names. Maybe not the first names. “The last names, yes,” he said. “Since we mostly only use last names in baseball.” They’re also on the back of the jerseys, he admitted.
While the team stretched on the field before Saturday night’s game, Cabrera sat next to teammates Jose Lobaton and Wilson Ramos, also fellow Venezuelans, and laughed. His son, 7-year-old Meyer, raced back and forth between the clubhouse and the field. Teammates laughed with Cabrera as his son struggled to adjust his red socks. He later played catch with his son and the two looked at home.
After eight seasons in Cleveland with the Indians, Cabrera was traded to the Nationals for infield prospect Zach Walters on July 31. The adjustment, although sudden, hasn’t been too difficult for Cabrera. He has taken well to second base, a position he hadn’t played since 2009. He feels like a part of the team.
“It’s been going well,” Cabrera said. “Pretty well, actually. I want to help the team. And when I get the opportunities, I want to help.”
The switch-hitting Cabrera is hitting .267 (12 for 45) with one home run with the Nationals in 12 games and has played solid defense at second. While he is not as familiar with the pitchers in the National League after spending his entire career until now in the American League, Cabrera said the pitching is mostly the same. The toughest adjustment for him has been the playing time.
“The issue with me is getting used to not playing against left-handed pitchers,” he said. “It’s hard for me after being an everyday player for eight years. Only facing right-handers and not left-handers is hard for me.”
Of Cabrera’s 12 starts, 11 have been against right-handed pitchers. Even though he is a career .279 hitter against left-handed pitching, Cabrera is hitting .231 against southpaws this season. And because Danny Espinosa has enjoyed a lot of success against left-handed pitching this season, Cabrera was not in the starting lineup on Saturday against Jeff Locke.
“It can be better,” Cabrera said of his hitting against left-handers. “I can because I’m not going to tell you I’ve had my best season. But it’s not just this year, but throughout my career. They’re not bad.”
Cabrera is also in the final season of the three-year, $21-million extension he signed with Cleveland in 2012, of which the Indians picked up the remaining portion of his salary. Being traded isn’t easy, especially when it is during a contract year. Cabrera said he isn’t thinking about the future. “All I’m thinking about is now and this season,” he said.